Benny Ze’evi, son of former minister Rehavam Ze’evi, is a suspect in the 1986 murder of Nissim Shitrit, Israeli media reported on Sunday morning after the gag order on his name was lifted.
Ze’evi was part of the Shuvu Banim sect under the leadership of Rabbi Eliezer Berland. He and another sect member, Baruch Sharvit, 76, were indicted for the murder on Friday.
The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court denied the request by Ze’evi’s lawyers that the gag order be extended, leading to the revelation of his name following an inquiry by KAN and Israel Hayom.
According to the indictments, submitted through attorneys Geula Cohen and Shira Natan, the defendants carried out the murder as part of their activity in the “modesty guard” on behalf of the Shuvu Banim sect headed by Berland.
The indictment describes the abduction and attack of Shitrit carried out by the two, as members of the modesty squad several months before his death, due to their suspicion that he was meeting with girls, an act that stands contrary to the religious norms held by members of the sect. Shitrit filed a police complaint following an attack.
Several days later, Shitrit was lured into an apartment where he was beaten by Ze’evi, Sharvit and others. From the apartment, he was taken to a nearby forest in the Beit Shemesh area, where he suffered severe injuries from blows to his body and head. A few minutes later, one of the attackers declared him dead, and the defendants and their friends buried him in the woods.
Shitrit was not a member of the sect.
Berland himself is currently serving jail time for extortion, attempted intimidation, tax offenses and money laundering. He was arrested last month as he was suspected to be linked to the murder, and on Thursday was released from detention.
Berland was also convicted in 2016 after admitting to two counts of indecent sexual acts and one of sexual assault.
Berland’s son-in-law, Tzvika Tzuker, was also arrested and later released in connection with the murder.
Shuvu Banim members were interrogated regarding the murder of Avraham Edri in 1990 in Jerusalem, but were not indicted.
The case was reopened after one of Berland’s former disciples mentioned the murder in a 2020 documentary released by KAN.