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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 March, 2005, 17:04 GMT
Rabbi guilty of blocking police
A Palestinian home being demolished near Jerusalem
A Jerusalem rabbi has been found guilty by an Israeli court of trying to prevent the demolition of illegally built Palestinian homes.

Rabbi Arik Ascherman was convicted on charges of interfering with police duties in Jerusalem in 2003, his lawyer Leah Tzemel told the BBC News website.

However, prosecutors then asked that the court set aside the verdict and allow him to perform community service.

Rabbi Ascherman has said he had a moral responsibility to stop the demolitions.

He and other activists had attempted to prevent the demolition of two Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem by standing in front of bulldozers.

The American-born rabbi was also convicted of the intention to commit acts to prevent police performance of duties.

Rabbis for Human Rights

Rabbi Ascherman heads the Israeli pressure group Rabbis for Human Rights.

They say that Israel has deliberately created bureaucratic obstacles for Palestinians trying to build in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

"For us, this trial really was about the people who have no voice here, the victims of home demolition," Rabbi Ascherman told the Associated Press news agency.

"And that's why we're going immediately from the courthouse... to begin the rebuilding of one of these homes."

Ahmed Mussa Daari, who built one of the demolished homes said he was "sad to hear the decision today because one man helping another man should not be illegal".

According to Israeli Human Rights group Btselem 2,200 Palestinian homes have been demolished in the last 10 years.

Israel has occupied East Jerusalem in 1967 though under international law the area is considered to be occupied territory.

The Israeli authorities say that the demolished homes are built without permission and that Palestinians have areas where they can build in the West Bank.

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