12 November 2002
Adalah to AG: No Legal Basis for Police Seizure of Archimandrite Atallah Hanna's Passports
On 28 October 2002, Adalah sent a letter to the Attorney General's office, on behalf of Archimandrite Theodosios (Atallah) Hanna, Spokesman of the Greek Orthodox Church in Jerusalem and the Holy Land. In the letter, Adalah Staff Attorney Suhad Bishara demanded that the Attorney General intervene immediately to arrange for the return of both Archimandrite Hanna's Israeli and Vatican passports, which were confiscated by the Israeli police.
Archimandrite Hanna was held and interrogated by police at the Russian Compound in Jerusalem, on 22 August 2002. He was questioned regarding visits he made to Syria and Lebanon, relations with Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat, and his position on the Intifada in the Occupied Territories. Following the interrogation, Archimandrite Hanna's passports were seized by the police.
Approximately three weeks ago, Archimandrite Hanna was summoned again to the Russian Compound to collect his passports. There he was told that in order to receive his passports, he would be required to sign a statement promising not to incite against the state or make statements in support of terrorist actions or organizations; not to visit states hostile to Israel without the permission of the Ministry of Interior; and not to contact enemy states (as defined under Israeli law) or terrorist organizations. The Archimandrite refused to sign such a statement, and the police refused to return his passports.
In the letter, Adalah argued that the seizure of Archimandrite Hanna's passports violates his freedom of movement and of religion, enshrined in the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty. Such a violation prevents him from fulfilling his duties as Archimandrite, which frequently require him to travel to other countries. Adalah also argued that the police decision to withhold Archimandrite Hanna's passports was not based on any law, and did not serve any legitimate purpose.
Additionally, Adalah contended that the commitment the Archimandrite was asked to sign has no legal basis and violates the principle of equality. There is no significance in law, Adalah argued, to a commitment signed by the Archimandrite containing prohibitions which do not apply to other citizens, or to other persons in similar positions. The Archimandrite is subject to the laws of Israel, the same as any other citizen or any other persons in similar positions.
On 28 October 2002, the Attorney General sent a letter to the legal advisor of the police, requesting his urgent reply to Adalah's letter.