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Rabbi Eliezer Berland under arrest in hospital

  • Rabbi Eliezer Berland - HOME
The 78-year-old rabbi Eliezer Berland, who was arrested by the Hawks and Interpol in Sunninghill north of Johannesburg last week Thursday, is being held in an undisclosed Pretoria hospital under heavy police guard after having complained that he was not feeling well. He is scheduled to appear in the Randburg Magistrates Court this Thursday in connection with an Interpol warrant for his extradition to Israel to answer to sexual charges there.
by ANT KATZ | Apr 13, 2016

Hawks spokesman Brig Hangwani Mulaudzi added that the elusive rabbi, on the lam since 2012 after skipping Israel where he is to face sex-related charges, will appear in the Randburg Magistrate’s Court this Thursday.

However, the South African Police Service’s (SAPS) Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (the Hawks) were not prepared to say how and where they arrested the slippery rabbi, nor would they disclose where he is being hospitalised under guard, except to say it was in Pretoria.

The Hawks’ apprehension about disclosing too many facts is understandable as the fugitive from justice managed to thwart three attempts by the Hawks to arrest him over the past two years; he escaped from South Africa to Holland after the second attempt and lost an appeal in a Dutch court against extradition to Israel to stand trial there.

But he again “disappeared”, reportedly to a small island, before he again returned to South Africa.

Rabbi Eliezer Berland - preferred pic - smallMulaudzi said the rabbi, who has been on the Interpol wanted list for four counts of indecent assault, allegedly committed in Israel, had been arrested by the “Hawks’ Interpol members” last week Thursday.


RIGHT: Rabbi Berland

Berland is the leader of the Shuvu Banim International Breslov Chassidic movement based at his yeshiva in Jerusalem, a stone’s throw from the Kotel. He is considered by his fanatical followers - many of whom have followed him around all his travels - to have “one of the greatest religious minds of our time”, but his detractors maintain that his organisation is riven with corruption. This has not been proven, however.

Berland originally went on the run four years ago after Israeli police had wanted him to testify against his wife and son for alleged fraud and some female followers in Israel claimed that he had sexually harassed or raped them.

His first year on the run saw him in Morocco and Zimbabwe, with both countries eventually evicting him and in mid-April 2014, Berland and numerous followers arrived in Johannesburg, where hundreds more families of followers joined him from all over the world for Pesach.


HAWKS’ OFFICIAL NOTICE TICKS MORE BERLAND BOXES

 

His brazen escape to Holland from South Africa, saw Rabbi Berland, with his wife and a supporter, walking through South African customs the day after the Hawks’ second unsuccessful attempt to nab him, and he simply boarded a scheduled KLM flight to Holland.

The Israelis were one step ahead of him, however, and arranged for his arrest (to be followed by his extradition) on his landing at Schiphol Airport.

Berland appeared before an extradition hearing in Holland, but the Israelis could not produce an arrest warrant to the Dutch court and the rabbi was released on his own recognisances but the court retained his passport which meant he had to stay within the Schengen borders in Europe.

A prominent Israeli lawyer, Sharon Nahari, was sent by Berland’s Shuvu Banim followers to Amsterdam to obtain representation for the rabbi - which Nahari did in the form of Dutch lawyers Louis de Leon and Herman Levenstein. The latter had been credited as having prevented the Dutch parliament from outlawing shechita (and halaal slaughter) in 2012.

On December 1, 2014 the Israelis tried again to get Berland extradited, this time with proper arrest warrants, but again the Dutch court refused extradition as it felt the warrants were frivolous. On their third attempt, the Israeli authorities prevailed, as they did on appeal.

However, when the Dutch authorities went to fetch Berland, they found that the elusive rabbi had already skipped the country.

A short while later, Berland, with around 200 followers (now said to have grown to some 500-odd) reappeared in South Africa.

One of Jewish Report Online’s Dutch information sharing collaborators was the editor of daily newspaper NRC, Danielle Pinedo, who spoke to Berland’s Israeli attorney, Sharon Nahari, who told her his client would be bringing five witnesses to court on Thursday to question the veracity of the Israeli charges.

While this strategy was also used in the Dutch courts last year, it did not prevail in the end and an extradition order was eventually issued, and an appeal denied.

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