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State mulls criminal probe into illegal settlement construction

State mulls criminal probe into illegal settlement construction
By Akiva Eldar, Haaretz
Sat, January 07, 2006 Tevet 7, 5766

In a rare move against settlement expansion, the State Prosecution on Friday told the High Court of Justice it will look into the possibility of opening a criminal investigation pertaining to the illegal construction in the the Matityahu East neighborhood in the West Bank settlement of Upper Modi’in.

Attorney Aner Helman of the State Prosecution told the court it should issue a temporary injunction to forbid the plan to double the housing units in the neighborhood from 1,500 to 3,000.

Justice Ayala Procaccia on Friday ordered to halt construction immediately of the hundreds of illegal housing units in the neighborhood.

In a temporary injunction issued at the request of Peace Now, Justice Procaccia also ordered a cessation of efforts to populate or sell additional units at the construction site.

The injunction was issued against the defense minister, the Israel Defense Forces commander in the West Bank, IDF GOC central commander, head of the Civil Administration, the local council of Upper Modi’in and the building contractors Green Park, Green Mount and Ein Ami.

Helman added that the court should demand that Upper Modi’in’s local planning and construction committee ensure the construction be halted, and stop allowing construction without permits from the West Bank command’s central planning bureau.

He said that if proper actions are not taken by local officials, inspectors from the central command would be forced to act.

Helman also confirmed Haaretz’ findings that a local licensing authority granted construction permits to dozens of apartments – 22 buildings of five floors or more – that are either completed close to completion.

The illegal construction is taking place on property belonging to the Palestinian village of Bil’in. The property was acquired by the settlement from land dealers through dubious powers of attorney, then rezoned as state land and leased or sold to settlers’ construction companies.

The separation fence cuts Bil’in off from the land, thereby facilitating the settlers’ access to it.