Balagan extraordinaire, bail hearing continues
Three “followers” or aides of fugitive Rabbi Eliezer Berland – men in their twenties, wearing long black coats, waving their arms, and with their ear-locks and large skullcaps awry – confronted diminutive National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) special prosecutor Nerisha Naidoo and Interpol investigator, Detective Warrant Officer WJ van der Heever.
The three shouted loudly and gesticulated angrily at the prosecutor and investigating officer because they were outraged at the order just handed down by Regional Magistrate Pravina Raghunandan, in the bail application of Berland, who is in police custody.
Berland is awaiting extradition on an Interpol warrant, to face sex-related charges in Israel. He has avoided arrest in both South Africa and the Netherlands. But a week ago the Hawks nabbed the elusive rabbi.
Raghunandan, the presiding officer, had ordered that, since Berland was required to remain in custody on Thursday night, he would have to spend the night in Pretoria at the Kgosi Mampuru prison.
RIGHT: Berland in the Randburg Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday awaiting proceedings to begin PIC: Ilan Ossendryver for JR Online
This was because the officer commanding the nearby Randburg police station, where Berland has been held for the last few days, had adamantly refused to have the 79-year-old head of the Breslov Chasidic sect Shuvu Banim, their yeshiva in Jerusalem (Yeshivat Nechamat Zion) and the Shuvu Banim International movement, back in her police station.
Prosecutor Naidoo had told the court that the Randburg police station authorities said that Berland was “disruptive” and his presence had “demoralised the station personnel and interfered with their work” because of his stream of visitors, special dietary requirements and all-hours visits from his doctor.
Known previously as Pretoria Central, one of the country’s most notorious prisons, especially for political prisoners, Kgosi Mampuru is a fully-fledged, maximum security prison, which means that Berland’s aides would not be able to visit him at all hours nor would his doctor or other medical personnel have access to him whenever he felt unwell.
LEFT: One of the thousands of colourful supporters of Rav Berland in Glenhazel at Pesach 2014 – showing his disdain to a Jewish Report photographer
On Wednesday Raghunandan had overruled the objections of the Randburg police. But yesterday https://www.sajr.co.za/images/default-source/logos/jewish-orgs/16-berland-logo.jpg” class=”sfImageWrapper”>Raghunandan left the court without reacting to the aide.
Also just prior to the magistrate leaving the court, Berland’s attorney, Themba Langa, on hearing her order, had said: “This is unfair, you can’t do this to the old man, a rabbi who has been persecuted” and he had shrugged his shoulders. Raghunandan said: “Mr. Langa, don’t shrug your shoulders at me in my court. This borders on the contemptuous.”
Both prosecution and defence had hoped to wrap up their arguments yesterday https://www.sajr.co.za/images/default-source/People/group/berlov-geoff26538373e47cf6007affdff0000014754.jpg” class=”sfImageWrapper”>One of these read as follows: “FI (one of the Israeli complainants) grew up in the Shuvu Bonim community. Sometime in 2007-2008 when FI was 16.5 years old (a minor, according to Israeli law), she had a spiritual crisis and her father suggested she meet with Berland. FI agreed and one night at 1am her father took her to Berland’s house … FI entered Berland’s room alone while her father waited for her outside. Berland wrapped FI in his prayer shawl and told her that she was a pious woman and that all of her sins would be transferred to him.
RIGHT: A 2015 picture of Rabbi Eliezer Berland’s followers at the Genesis Shopping Centre
“Berland then kissed FI on both of her cheeks and her forehead and embraced her while touching her chest. FI felt Berland’s body shaking with pleasure, like an orgasm, when he embraced her.
“FI left Berland’s room feeling numb. She thought that perhaps she was at fault for what had happened. . . FI told her father that everything was fine… The next day Berland asked that FI be brought to him at the same time… Once again Berland wrapped her in his prayer shawl… Once again Berland kissed her, embraced her, and fondled her chest over her clothing.”
Rabbi’s ‘diplomatic status revealed
Van der Heever also told the court that he had discovered, with the co’-operation of the Israeli authorities, that Berland’s diplomatic passport from the Cote d’Ivoire – which the rabbi claimed he had been given because of the large number of followers he had in that country – was in fact a fake passport.
The warrant officer told the court that he had also found an Israeli passport in Berland’s possession, which had turned out to be false as well – it actually belonged to someone who had died two years previously.
The case continues Friday.
BERLAND COURT PROCEEDINGS END IN A FRACAS
posted on JR after court Wednesday, links to the recent
events and to the whole Rabbi Eliezer Berland magilla