Citing what he said are subpar conditions in Israeli prison, former underworld figure Yitzhak Abergil has requested to return to the US to serve the rest of his sentence for organized crime offenses, less than two weeks after he was extradited to Israel.
Appearing in the Jerusalem District court on Wednesday, Abergil’s attorney Sharon Nahari said that after serving three years in prison in California, his client requested to return to Israel in order to be near his family and with the understanding he’d enjoy the same conditions that he had during his incarceration in the United States.
In California Abergil was jailed in facilities where he was considered a low-risk criminal and given a relatively high level of freedom behind bars. In Israel, Prisons Service officials made the decision to keep Abergil – once considered one of the country’s top organized crime figures – in complete isolation, out of what they have said is fear for his safety and that of other inmates.
“When he agreed to be returned, it was with the understanding that it would not be to a prison far from his family and he would be able to see them in a normal fashion. In addition, it was done with the understanding that he would have the same conditions that he had in the US, meaning the lowest security level there can be, and with a level of freedom and not separated in a closed room in absolute isolation,” Nahari said in court on Wednesday.
“We see no damage to the people of Israel and the public interest if he returns to serve in the US, as opposed to the grave damage that would be caused here to him and his family,” Nahari added.
Nahari requested an additional week to present further legal arguments, and the next court date to determine the case was set for the end of February.
Almost two weeks ago, Abergil returned to Israel escorted by Prisons Service security officers after serving three years in prison in the United States on charges of drug trafficking and racketeering in the US.
A major power in the Israeli underworld in the ’90s and the early 2000s, Abergil, originally from Lod, built a criminal network that spanned Israel with interests in Europe, the United States and elsewhere. Abergil’s name first became known to the Israeli public when he was convicted of murder at age 17, after which he served 13 years of a life sentence before he was released.
Abergil built and based much of his power on his ability to influence inmates in the Israeli prison system, where he was known as a charismatic leader of inmates and, for wardens, a force to be reckoned with.
He is expected to serve between 2.5 and 4.5 years in prison.