Rabbi in Israeli prison for sexual assault released early for cancer treatments

(JTA) – A rabbi who was extradited to Israel from South Africa after years on the run to face sexual abuse charges was released early to undergo cancer treatment.

Rabbi Eliezer Berland, 80, had been sentenced to 18 months in prison in November after being convicted of two counts of indecent assault and one count of assault as part of a plea bargain.

The Israel Prisons Service Parole Board on Monday accepted Berland’s request for an early release in order to receive medical treatment for advanced cancer. He will observe the rest of his sentence under house arrest, according to Ynet.

Berland, a leader of one of the main factions of Breslov Hasidism and founder of the Shuvu Bonim religious seminary in Israel, fled Israel in 2013 for Morocco when allegations that he molested two female followers, one of them a minor, were first published in the Israeli media. Berland also lived in the Netherlands and Zimbabwe with followers.

He was returned to Israel in July 2016 after being arrested four months earlier and kept in custody in Johannesburg while awaiting extradition. Berland had spent a year in South Africa along with dozens of followers.

He was held in custody upon his return to Israel after being determined to be a flight risk.

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