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'Untrustworthy' Berland’s bail request denied

  • Rabbi Eliezer Berland HOME2
Justice Fayeeza Kathree-Setiloane tells "well-connected" rabbi that he remains a flight risk as he awaits extradition to Israel over alleged sex crimes. The fugitive rabbi asked the court for bail and a review of his extradition order as well as "guarantees" if he is, in fact, to be extradited to Israel. The judge heard that the rabbi was igniting a culture clash with South African courts and prisons.
by JEREMY GORDIN | Jul 01, 2016

A South African justice on Thursday rejected Rabbi Eliezer Berland’s request to have his detention in Johannesburg Prison declared unlawful, saying he remained a flight risk and could not be trusted.

A week ago, Berland, 79 – one of the leaders of the Shuvu Banim Chasidic movement in Israel, and wanted for alleged sex crimes – launched an urgent application, arguing that he should be released to a “place of safety” pending a legal review launched by his legal team on June 14.

Justice Fayeeza Kathree-Setiloane, in the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg, said that last week’s application was based on the argument that the extradition process in the Randburg Magistrate’s Court had been flawed and irregular and therefore unlawful and that the denial of bail to Berland and his detention at Johannesburg Prison – known tongue-in-cheek by inmates and others as “Sun City” – should be set aside.

However, Kathree-Setiloane ruled that the extradition and bail hearings had not been irregular in any major way and rejected the argument. She also ruled that Berland was clearly “very resourceful” and well-connected and, especially because he had jumped bail of 50 000 euros ($55 000) in The Netherlands and had had two fake passports in his possession, he remained a “flight risk”. She would therefore not allow him to leave detention. “He cannot be trusted,” said the judge.

She was aware that Berland is 79, in ill-health and has special dietary needs, but the evidence before her was that his needs were being well met in prison.

The judge also said that one of the reasons she didn’t want to grant him bail was that, in her view, Berland’s review had “no prospect of success”.

After the judgment, members of the defence team and some of Berland’s assistants asked Prosecutor Nerisha Naidoo whether, given the ruling, she could arrange for Berland to be extradited to Israel as quickly as possible.

They said they were concerned about the rabbi’s welfare in prison and said they could arrange a ticket almost immediately. Naidoo replied that if a request was made in writing, she would see what she could arrange.

The review, which has been served on Minister of Justice Michael Masutha, the prosecution service, and Randburg Magistrate’s Court, questions the legality of the decision to extradite Berland to Israel. The extradition order was signed by the minister on June 3.

Berland, rosh yeshiva of Shuvu Banim in the Muslim quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City, has been on the run from Israel since 2012, when some female followers in Israel alleged that he had sexually assaulted them.

Berland managed to live under the noses of authorities from Morocco to The Netherlands and Zimbabwe, until he was arrested by a heavily armed contingent of South African police on April 7.

Following an often fraught set of hearings in the Randburg Magistrate’s Court, Berland was then denied bail because he was “deemed to be a flight risk”. On April 29 he was committed to detention pending the signing of his extradition order.

After this, a number of stories appeared in Israeli and local Jewish media reporting that the chief rabbi of Migdal Ha’emek, Rabbi Yitzchak Dovid Grossman, had flown to South Africa in an attempt to secure Berland’s release. On May 26, Haaretz reported that Berland, having met Grossman, had “signed an extradition agreement” [sic] and would “soon” return to Israel.

On May 27, on the Shuvu Banim website, Berland released a letter and audio recording to his followers, saying: “I decided to return to Israel.”

Outside the courtroom, one of his assistants said on Thursday that Berland “often changed his mind about decisions” and that the actual signing of the extradition order by Masutha seemed to have made him decide to take the matter on review rather than return to Israel.

Related reads:

23 June: Surprise as Rabbi Berland seeks bail
28 June: Berland now to hear his fate on Thursday

Find the almost 200 items JR has published over the past three years

4 Comments

  1. 4 Anthony Lange 01 Jul
    'A week ago, Berland, 79 – one of the leaders of the Bratslav Hasidic movement...'

    How do we expect the others to respect our Rabbonim if we don't.   Jeremy, HOW DARE YOU refer to Rabbi Berland as 'Berland'.  [unnecessarily Insulting   -ED] You should be ashamed of yourself!!!!

    Also, R. Berland isnt just 'one of the leaders'. Everyone [clearly not -ED] will agree that he is THE leader. A great Tzaddik who's pisition in Shamaim we cant even begin to fathom.

    ------------  added from Israel.

    [Anthony, I wrote to you earlier, privately, about the requirements within our rules if your Israeli friend would like his threats published. With respect to both him and yourself, you are critical of some of the highest standards of journalism anywhere in the world. Jeremy is one of SA's finest and his story has appeared in several papers today, and been quoted in many more   -ED]

  2. 3 Gary Sachs 02 Jul
    If he is sent to a safe place then he would not be a flight risk. He is 79 years old and has not been convicted of anything.
  3. 2 Reuel 02 Jul
    The decision of Justice Fayeeza Kathree-Setiloane is both correct and satisfying. Had Berland been allowed to leave the prison, plans to help him flee the country would have been implemented almost immediately. Neither Berland nor his disciples have any respect toward courts of "Akum" (literally "worshipers of stars and constellations"). Berland and his circle of disciples would have no qualms whatsoever  about making 'solemn' promises to the court, then breaking these promises immediately. In fact, after  Justice Fayeeza Kathree-Setiloane's decision was announced in the press, several Ultra-Orthodox blogs in the US and Israel discussed the need to bribe prison guards at Sun City so that they facilitate Berland's escape. The Justice was right: he is untrustworthy.   
     
     
  4. 1 Anthony Lange 05 Jul
    I would have thought that a publication which calls itself 'Jewish' might at the very least abide by the Laws of Judaism. It states very clearly in the Shulchan Arauch that it is forbidden to repeat slander. as in publishing what the judge calling R. Berland (see you headline).

    But more revealing is what this tells me about our Chief Rabbi. Either he doesn't read you publication or that he sanctions slander. (I see no objection to the headline from his 'office')  

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