Trial opens for alleged baby killer

The high-profile manslaughter trial of a 19-year-old haredi man suspected of beating his three-month-old infant to death opened Monday in the Jerusalem District Court with conflicting testimonies from police and family members. The suspected killer, Yisrael Valis, is charged with repeatedly biting, beating, pinching and punching the infant since he was born because he "did not accept him" due to a congenital defect in the child's neck muscles. The testimony began with a police officer describing his meeting with Valis at Hadassah University Hospital, Ein Kerem, where his critically injured son was being treated for his injuries. "I arrived and saw a father with a baby in critical condition, and he seemed to me to be indifferent. This aroused my suspicion," officer Yuval Kaminitz testified. Valas's attorney, Avigdor Feldman, dismissed the testimony. "What kind of psychological training do you have to determine that he seemed indifferent?" he asked. The defendent's father, Benzion Valis, testified that he never noticed any signs of abuse when his grandson and son would visit his Jerusalem home. Feldman showed the court a picture of a smiling baby dressed up as a watermelon. Valis, who was arrested in April after he admitted during police questioning to repeatedly beating his child, retracted his confession in a court hearing last month, saying that it had been coerced by police. The young father's arrest led to days of haredi rioting in Jerusalem, after leaders of the vehemently anti-Zionist Edah Haredit community - which the Valis family was part of - accused police of concocting a "blood libel" identical to European blood libels against the Jews. The baby died in a Jerusalem hospital on April 10, a week after his father allegedly hurled him against the wall when he started to cry. The court subsequently released Valis to house arrest after probation officers determined that he did not pose a danger to the public. Valis, who has been staying at his parents home, has since been allowed to spend nights at his own home with his wife.