Haredi man [Illustrative].
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Following an undercover investigation, the police conducted a wide-ranging arrest operation early Monday morning, apprehending almost two dozen suspected haredi (ultra-Orthodox) sex offenders in the capital and three haredi- majority cities.
The police released a video of dramatic footage in which officers are seen raiding the apartments of the suspects under the cover of darkness, in some cases breaking open doors and handcuffing them, and contending with large crowds of angry haredi men who sought to prevent the arrests.
In total, 22 haredi men were arrested in Jerusalem, Beit Shemesh, Betar Illit and Bnei Brak on suspicion of sexual offenses that had not been reported to the police or the welfare services.
The suspects, ranging in age from 20 to 60 years old, were arrested in their homes and questioned on suspicion that they perpetrated sexual misdemeanors with children, minors, and young men and women over the last two years.
In recent weeks, the police went about gathering information regarding the activities of certain activists within the haredi community who are entrusted to deal with sexual assaults in the sector, likely those in one of the so-called Modesty Guard groups.
These organizations, with the approval of the heads of the various haredi groups and sects, gather information about people who commit sexual crimes in the community.
The organization in question conducted “internal processes” within the community regarding sexual crimes being perpetrated, at the end of which they would decide what should be done in order to close the case and not to pass it on to the police.
In the majority of cases, the head of the organization would instruct the perpetrators to get some form of therapy within the haredi community and would record extensive details of the case and those involved. Dozens of sex offenders within the haredi community have been dealt with in this manner, some of whom having committed crimes on several occasions and against several victims, none of which was reported to the authorities.
Approximately six weeks ago, the police arrested the leading activist, seized records he had created and began conducting an undercover investigation into the perpetrators listed, using information gleaned from the activist himself during questioning.
During the raids in Jerusalem, crowds of haredi men gathered around the police to try and prevent them from carrying out the arrests and threw stones and various other objects, breaking the windows of two patrol cars.
Following their arrest, all the suspects were brought to the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court for a remand hearing. At least 16 of the suspects had their remand extended on Monday, while the remainder were still being processed at press time.
According to a police spokesman, it has not yet been decided whether or not to charge the activist arrested six weeks ago with failing to pass on information about sex crimes to the relevant authorities, and conclusively proving such allegations is complicated and difficult.
“Uncovering this scandal, arresting the suspects and bringing them to trial is first and foremost [intended to] prevent additional harm to the victims and to provide them with assistance,” the police said in a statement.
“At the same time, the police will work toward prosecuting these suspects for the sex crimes attributed to them.”