Page last updated at 16:37 GMT, Friday, 22 January 2010

Britons accused of setting fire to a synagogue in Crete

Burnt furniture in Etz Hayyim synagogue
The Etz Hayyim synagogue dates back to the Middle Ages

Two British men have been arrested in connection with arson attacks on a medieval synagogue on the Greek island of Crete.

The two men, who have not been named, are being held in the coastal town of Hania. A Greek man is also in custody and two Americans are being sought.

Hania's Etz Hayyim synagogue has been targeted by arsonists twice this month.

The UK embassy in Athens said two British men had been arrested on charges of arson.

The BBC's Malcolm Brabant in Athens said, according to the police, the men are aged 23 and 33 and are nightclub waiters in the seaside town.

Jewish monument

Police said they were arrested after a 24-year-old Greek man confessed, our correspondent added.

The British men have been offered assistance by consul staff on the island.

The first attack happened on 5 January but it was the second attack on Saturday 16 January which caused extensive damage to the synagogue's interior, its archive material and technical equipment.

Burnt bookshelf in Etz Hayyim synagogue
The financial cost of the fires has yet to be calculated

The Etz Hayyim synagogue, which dates back to the Middle Ages, is the only surviving Jewish monument on the island of Crete.

It was restored in the late 1990s and has since become a memorial and a tourist attraction.

By 1941 most of the Jews in Crete had emigrated, leaving only the Hania community of about 270 people.

They were deported by Nazi invaders in 1944 and died when their ship was bombed and sunk by the Allies.

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