29 July 2023
Keghart.org interviews Jerusalem activist Hagop Djernazian, who along with Setrag Balian and several other concerned Jerusalemites, helped expose and publicize the illegal Goveroun Bardez (Cows’ Garden) contract secretly signed by Patriarch Nourhan Manougian, now defrocked Rev. Baret Yeretsian, and Archbishop Sevan Gharibian. The 98-year lease gave away twenty-five percent of the Armenian Quarter to Israeli interests. Djernazian comments on the findings of the lawyers who recently returned from a fact-finding mission.
KEGHART: How did the lawyers get a copy of the contract? From the Patriarchate or the municipality? If not from the Patriarchate, why not?
HD: The lawyers got a copy of the contract from a third party and not from the Patriarchate. As many of us know, the Patriarchate tried to hide the contract. Many Jerusalemite Armenians asked to see the contract, but the Patriarchate refused to show it to them. The Patriarchate didn’t give a copy of the contract to the lawyers either.
Some have asked that since the Patriarchate didn’t give the contract to the lawyers, how are we sure what was received from the third party is genuine? We know what we have is genuine because we were able to confirm it with the Patriarchate that it is a genuine copy. The Patriarchate has the contract with the missing fourth page.
The contract is absolutely scandalous and a disaster. According to the report prepared by the lawyers, Yeretsian’s role in the negotiations on behalf of the Patriarchate is corroborated as is Yeretsian’s working relationship with counsel for the Patriarchate (Joseph Avneeri) to whom the development contract awards significant fees to be paid by Xana Gardens Ltd.
It is important to mention also the role of Patriarch Manougian. According to the lawyers’ conclusion: “While Patriarch Manougian has denied any role in the negotiations of the development contract in response to the accusations levelled by Yeretsian, we have not been able to independently confirm the truth of the Patriarch’s denial. “
It is worth recalling that Yeretsian refused to meet the lawyers despite many attempts by the commission to interview him.
KEGHART: Now that lease details (minus p. 4 and the annexes) are known, the next concern is how to cancel/reverse the contract. What’s the advice of the lawyers? What are the steps necessary to cancel the deal?
HD: The community is working with the lawyers to find a way to reverse the deal. A glimpse of hope is that the deal violated the constitution of the Patriarchate and that there are manipulations in the deal. According to the report prepared by the lawyers, the manipulations are as follows:
1.The date on the contract appears to be altered from July 7 to July 8, 2021 to reflect the day that Xana Gardens Limited was registered in Israel.
The date appearing on all the pages have been typewritten as 7 July 2021 and then on the first and last page a handwriting changes the 7 to 8. Xana Gardens, as mentioned above, wasn’t registered as an Israeli company until July 8, 2021. The contract was signed on July 7, 2021. That is, Xana Gardens Ltd. didn’t exist yet as a registered company in Israel when it purportedly signed the contract.
2. Another point which can be considered manipulation is that nowhere in the contract does it specify the identity of the individual signing the contract on behalf of Xana Gardens Ltd. The certification part, which was supposed to be signed by Danny Rothman is not signed by him while the certification part for the Patriarchate is signed. The lessor is not only identified by label but by individual names and positions of the people signing on behalf of the Patriarchate. An attorney certification appears for the Patriarchate’s signatures.
KEGHART: What’s next as far as the community is concerned?
HD: The community is working in many different ways to reverse the deal and also to make the public aware of the scandal. In the upcoming weeks, the community will announce its steps and the way people can help us.
KEGHART: The Patriarch and Archbishop Gharibian have said they would reverse the deal. Are they working at it? If not, why not?
HD: From what I know and have heard from the Patriarchate clergy, those who hold high positions in the Patriarchate are working on canceling the deal. I don’t know how they are planning to do it. The Patriarch and those around him said at the outset that they needed two months to reverse the deal. But we are entering the end of the third month since the Patriarch said he would reverse the deal in two months.
KEGHART: How much would it cost the cancel the contract? Where will the money come from? What’s the community’s mood like?
HD: I don’t have a specific figure. None of us, including the lawyers, know the amount. If money is needed, I’m sure the Patriarchate, the community and the Armenian nation will work together to raise the required amount to pay the cancellation penalty. Our goal is to reverse the deal and return Goveroun Bardez to Armenians.
We, meaning the community, are full of hope that we will succeed in the struggle. The visit of the lawyers gave everyone a glimpse of hope. We should stay positive to reach our goal.
Regarding the above, I would like to make something very clear: there are many sensitive points in the struggle. We all should be very smart and think twice before we act. We are fighting against very powerful people. But we, as a community and a nation, are stronger than those who are trying to change the integrity of the Armenian Quarter. We will succeed if we stay united, act wisely, and believe in those who are working 24/7 to reverse this deal.
I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the Keghart.org team for being at the forefront of reporting, since 2021, the Goveroun Bardez and other real estate scandals of the Armenian Patriarchate .
Note: Photos represent the developer’s plan for Goveroun Bardez. They were obtained from the municipality by the Armenian lawyers.
Related articles that have appeared in Keghart.org (chronologically sequenced since 31 August 2021)
Scandal at the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem (Editorial)
The Risk of Leasing out Armenian patriarchate of Jerusalem Land
The Follies of Jerusalem’s Patriarch
Save the Lands
Patriarch Manougian Crucified by Own Words
Public Statement – Saints James Brotherhood
Palestinian Authority Demands Armenian Patriarch’s Reply
The Two-faced Patriarch
Toppling Criminal Nourhan, Restoring Armenian Lands
Patriarchate Pair Persists
Sts. James Patriarchate land lease
JERUSALEM BREAKING NEWS
Glimmer of Hope
The Winter of the Patriarch
Ingrate Vartabed Denies Patriarchate’s Debt to Nation
“After Me the Deluge”
The Architects of the Unfolding Tragedy of Armenian Jerusalem
It’s the 11th hour
Further Isolation for the Shameful Jerusalem Trio
Perpetuating the Armenian Presence in the holy land
Silencing US with Their Silence
Safeguarding Jerusalem’s Armenian Quarter Against Judaization
Soft-ball Interview with Defrocked Priest