Police rearrest 9 suspected Jerusalem cult members

Alleged cult leader, family members are suspected of witness intimidation and intent to commit a crime.

By MELANIE LIDMAN
February 7, 2012 09:33
3 minute read.
Suspect arrested [illustrative]

arrest 311 R. (photo credit: REUTERS/Eric Gaillard )

 
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Police rearrested nine people involved in a well-known Jerusalem Breslov cult suspected of sexual and emotional abuse of cult members, after the head of the cult attempted to interfere with the investigation by hiding some of the state’s witnesses, police said Monday.

Four of the men were ordered held in remand by the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court Monday, and five more suspects will be remanded on Tuesday. The four men were remanded for five days while police continue their investigation. They are suspected of harassment of witnesses and intention to commit a crime, in addition to multiple counts of sexual abuse, child abuse, slavery, rape and imprisonment from their treatment of the women and children.

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The man suspected of leading the cult, “D.,” rented a number of buildings in the North a few months ago and had supplied the buildings with food, electrical appliances, and other necessities, with the intention of keeping the women and children hidden for the duration of the investigation and trial, police said.

According to police, D. planned to move some of the witnesses to the buildings located in Yavne’el, a small village south of Tiberias, in the coming days. The nine people arrested included D., two of his assistants, two of his wives, three of his sons and one of his daughters.

Members of the cult and a friend slammed investigators for trying to destroy their family, and insisted the claims of abuse were completely fraudulent.

“They tried to invent things that weren’t there. They’re trying to destroy a family from the roots,” said Rachel, who was adopted into the family 13 years ago and married one of the sons. Her husband was arrested last week the day she came home from the hospital after giving birth to their first daughter, Shirel.

“He is the sweetest dad in the world,” said Chana Miriam, another daughter of D. She said since the investigation began in August, she hasn’t seen her brothers or sisters, who were separated and placed in shelters across the country.

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Both Rachel and Chana Miriam denied there was any abuse in the family.

“That is all lies, none of that happened,” said Rachel. “They are trying to make us like Goel Ratzon, but we’re not,” she added, referring to the January 2010 case of a Tel Aviv man arrested for abusing his 17 wives and 39 children.

“The problem is that [the leader] is a threat to their value system,” said David, a family friend for 12 years, outside the courtroom. “[The family] has the characteristics of a cult, but its basis is in truth.”

Police and social workers called the cult the worst case of domestic violence in decades when the cult leader and two of his followers were arrested in August on suspicion of abusing the 15 children and six women in the cult. Social workers familiar with the case described severe physical, emotional and sexual violence that landed several of the children in emergency rooms, some of them numerous times.

The group moved often and the children were taken to different hospitals to prevent questions about possible abuse, with claims that broken bones were from falls or other accidents.

Some of the members of the cult, including the older sons and the wives, are being investigated as both victims and suspects who enabled and carried out the abuse.

The leader of the cult was not legally married to the six women but maintained sexual relations with all of them. When police raided the apartment in Jerusalem in August, they found stun guns, electric cables and wooden rods, in addition to the diaries of several of the women, which will be used to help build the case.

The 15 children were not enrolled in school. Many of them learned to play musical instruments, and the “family” regularly performed together, sometimes in concerts that drew hundreds of people, especially from the Breslov sect.

Boaz Kenig, the lawyer for the suspects, said they denied all the charges against them.

“This is all rumors, and they have no connection to the accusations,” he said Monday.

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