Berland to fight an uphill battle for bail

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BREAKING NEWS: In a dramatic pre-emptive strike in the Pretoria High Court this morning, Berland is claiming he was wrongfully arrested, Israel plans an illegal rendition and that his activities are actually based in Palestine! He is asking the High Court to rule that his arrest was illegal and that it should be overturned. Watch this space.
by ANT KATZ | Apr 20, 2016

He says he was on his way to hand himself over. The Hawks say they found him and arrested him. Exactly what everyone’s intent was, after four years on the run Rabbi Eliezer Berland, who heads the Shuvu Banim International Breslov Chassidic sect headquartered at his Jerusalem yeshiva, is in the hands of the Hawks and Interpol.

The rabbinic Pimpernel’s high-powered legal team have three courtroom battles on their hands: to secure bail; to contest the authority and manner of his arrest in South Africa; and, finally, to challenge the veracity of the underlying charges against him in Israel.

Absent his inability to get an SA court to look beneath the veil if the Israeli charges, legal and diplomatic pundits tell Jewish Report that there is little doubt that he will be extradited to answer to charges of sexual offences in an Israeli court.

As was the case in The Netherlands where Berland faced – and lost – an extradition case in 2014 and 2015, his Shuvu Banim sect has again retained top Israeli attorney Sharon Nahari – who has in turn assembled a powerful team consisting of attorney Themba Langa and advocate Mandla Zulu.

Nahari is a top criminal lawyer who does not shy away from almost-impossible cases. While he was famously unsuccessful in the defence of former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert as well as Berland in Holland, in both those instances he managed to draw the proceedings out for an extended period and obtain bail for his clients while the cases were being heard.

Although Berland prevailed in round one last Thursday, there seems little hope of their being successful in round two of their bail hearing on Wednesday.

Last week the defence and State teams bickered for almost four hours before the bail hearing got underway (READ: “Dramatic first court appearance for Berland” on

State Prosecutor Advocate Nerisha Naidoo was not impressed: “This bail application is not as urgent as Mr Berland is making it out to be,” she said. The magistrate,  also faced ground-breaking requests – most of which she acceded to against Naidoo’s protestations.

She said that the claimed urgency for Rav Berland to be granted bail, on medical grounds, was spurious: “We have medical letters from the Joburg Gen and Morningside Clinic that he can be discharged into police custody,” she told the magistrate. Naidoo asked that the case be postponed to a later date because the State hadn’t had enough time to peruse the bail affidavit.

However, the magistrate acceded to the requests of Berland’s lawyers to allow him dignity and space while in prison. Among the unusual issues that the magistrate had to decide on, resulted in the following: Berland’s will not be placed within a general prison population at least until the bail hearing is decided, in accordance with his stature, religious requirements and the possible need for urgent medical treatment; Rav Berland will thus be kept in a private cell at the Randburg police station; and he can be attended to by his own doctor. Prosecutor Naidoo objected vociferously: “All accused are equal before the law; whichever facility he goes to, he will have access to a medical facility,” she said.

Berland’s first battle, for his bail, is likely to be hard-fought as he has to get the court to agree he is not a flight risk. Hawks spokesman Brig Hangwani Mulaudzi told SAJR that, as a rule, SA courts do not easily grant bail for extradition cases as they are deemed high flight risks.

But the errant and slippery rabbi is wanted for arrest on sex-pest charges in Israel, for absconding from bail in Holland and through Interpol arrest warrants in SA.

It is not without good reason that media have dubbed Berland "rabbi-on-the-run" - he has evaded authorities on four continents and slipped through their hands eight times already.

  • He skipped Israel in 2012;
  • He first evaded arrest by a Hawks tactical team after a high speed suburban car chase in July 2014;
  • He later escaped a heavily-armed Hawks team while conducting a wedding. His well-trained handlers whipped Berland away and pushed a double who travels with him in his place;
  • Within days, Berland simply walked through SA customs at OR Tambo Airport, despite the warrant for his arrest, and boarded a KLM flight to Holland;
  • Dutch courts granted Israel’s extradition request. After a subsequent appeal was denied, authorities went to pick him up only to find he had skipped;
  • He re-entered SA before Rosh Hashanah through a customs checkpoint, despite the arrest warrant in SA;
  • The third Hawks attempt to arrest him in January was at the hotel where he was spending Shabbos with hundreds of followers. The heavily-armed combined Interpol/Hawks team surprised the rabbi, but his handlers somehow managed to again whisk him away; and
  • Supposedly tired of sleeping in a different bed every night, Berland asked his lawyers to negotiate with the Hawks/Interpol for him to hand himself over last month. He didn’t pitch up on the agreed date of March 17, nor at a second of April 4.

And so Berland was arrested on  April 7, appeared on a bail hearing on  April 14 and will be fighting an uphill battle on  April 20 to be granted bail.

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1 Comment

  1. 1 nat cheiman 20 Apr
    Good luck to the old fella


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