Three Berland sect members arrested in 30-year-old murder cases

The three suspects are members of Rabbi Eliezer Berland's Shuvu Banim sect of the Breslov Hassidic community.

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish pilgrims pray next to the tomb of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov during the celebration of Rosh Hashanah holiday, amid the coronavirus outbreak in Uman, Ukraine, September 19, 2020 (photo credit: REUTERS/VALENTYN OGIRENKO)
Ultra-Orthodox Jewish pilgrims pray next to the tomb of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov during the celebration of Rosh Hashanah holiday, amid the coronavirus outbreak in Uman, Ukraine, September 19, 2020
(photo credit: REUTERS/VALENTYN OGIRENKO)

Detectives from the Jerusalem Police Central Unit arrested Rabbi Eliezer Berland on Monday morning at Ayalon Prison in Ramle, where he is incarcerated, on suspicion of involvement in kidnapping and murder cases dating back more than 30 years.

Later on Monday, police arrested Berland’s wife, Tehilla, in a haredi (ultra-Orthodox) neighborhood in Jerusalem where the couple lives, leading to violent clashes between members of Berland’s Shuvu Banim sect and the police.

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

On Monday, he was interrogated under warning and was informed of his rights at the prison for involvement in two murders in 1986 and 1990 in which his Shuvu Banim sect was allegedly involved.

Berland’s arrest was conducted following information given to the police by other suspects in the cases, who were arrested earlier this week and last month under suspicion of involvement in the murders, Channel 12 reported.

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

On Sunday, the police arrested and interrogated two suspects in those murders, both of whom are Jerusalem residents in their 60s and 70s. They were said to be close associates of Berland and senior figures in his Shuvu Banim community, the report said.

Last month, three members of the Shuvu Banim sect of Breslov Hassidim were arrested in connection with two Jerusalem murder cases, one in 1986 and one in 1990.

One of the suspects arrested over the past month signed a cooperation agreement with the police and gave information that led to Berland’s arrest on Monday, Channel 12 reported.

Those arrested were reportedly involved in murder cases related to mishmarot tzniut, or “modesty squads,” which carry out acts to coerce conformity to Shuvu Banim’s dress codes and standards of sexual and social behavior.

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

Shitrit had filed a police complaint following an attack by yeshiva students. Days later, he disappeared and left no trace after receiving a suspicious phone call.

Police suspect that Shitrit was murdered by a modesty 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. This past June, he was convicted on charges of fraud, exploitation, attempted intimidation, tax offenses and money laundering.