Disgraced hassidic leader Berland, already in jail, held for murder

Rabbi Eliezer Berland is currently serving his second custodial sentence for fraud, attempted tax evasion and other financial crimes. 

Rabbi Berland Arrest (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Rabbi Berland Arrest
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

Detectives from the Jerusalem Police’s Central Unit arrested Rabbi Eliezer Berland on Monday morning at his current place of incarceration in Ramle prison on suspicion of involvement in kidnap and murder cases dating back more than 30 years. 

Later, police also arrested Berland’s wife at her home in an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood in central Jerusalem, leading to violent clashes between members of Berland’s Shuvu Banim sect and the police.

Berland is currently serving time in prison, his second custodial sentence, after his conviction on fraud, attempted tax evasion and other financial crimes. 

He was interrogated under caution at the prison on Monday for his alleged involvement in two murders in 1986 and 1990 in which Shuvu Banim's involvement is also alleged.

Berland was arrested following information gleaned by police from other suspects in the cases who were arrested earlier this week and last month on suspicion of involvement in the murders, according to Channel 12 News.

Rabbi Eliezer Berland and Rabbi Ofer Erez (credit: Wikimedia Commons)Rabbi Eliezer Berland and Rabbi Ofer Erez (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

On Sunday, police arrested two other suspects in those murders, both of whom were Jerusalem residents in their sixties and seventies after they had been questioned by the Jerusalem Police’s Central Unit. Both suspects were close associates of Berland and senior figures in his Shuvu Banim community. 

Last month, three other members of Berland’s Shuvu Banim sect of the Breslov hassidic community were questioned in connection with two Jerusalem murder cases.

According to Channel 12 News, one of the suspects arrested over the last month signed a cooperation agreement with the police and it is they who have relayed information leading to Berland’s arrest on Monday. 

Those arrested in the last month were reportedly involved in the murder cases related to mishmarot tzniut, or “modesty squads” – ultra-Orthodox enforcement squads that enforce standards of sexual and social behavior in the community. 

One of the incidents reportedly involved the disappearance and probable murder of Nissim Shitrit in 1986.

Shitrit filed a police complaint following an attack by yeshiva students. Days later, he disappeared without trace after receiving a suspicious phone call. 

Police suspect that Shitrit was murdered by a modesty guard squad.

The second case is believed to be the murder of Avraham Edri in 1990. Edri, a yeshiva employee, was murdered while out with his wife.

Berland was convicted in 2016 after admitting to two counts of indecent sexual acts and one of sexual assault. In June this year, he was convicted on charges of fraud, exploitation, attempted intimidation, tax offenses and money laundering.