Israeli court denies bail to elderly rabbi in rape case

Rabbi Eliezer Berland, seen at a prayer service at the Western Wall on Jan. 25, 2012, faces charges in Israel of sexual assault. (Uri Lenz/Flash90)

Rabbi Eliezer Berland, seen at a prayer service at the Western Wall on Jan. 25, 2012, faces charges in Israel of sexual assault. (Uri Lenz/Flash90)

(JTA) – An elderly Hasidic rabbi caught on video apparently admitting to raping a woman and plotting the murder of an unnamed person will remain in police custody until legal proceedings against him are over.

The Jerusalem Magistrate Court denied bail Thursday to Rabbi Eliezer Berland, 79, who was extradited from South Africa to Israel last month and charged with several counts of sexual assault after three years as a fugitive, The Times of Israel reported. The court considers him a flight risk, according to the newspaper.

Berland, who was arrested in April in Johannesburg, is accused of sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl and trying to engage in sexual acts with four women who came to him seeking his advice and help. Last month, the media in Israeli reported about a recording allegedly of Berland admitting to rape.

An attorney for Berland attorney has denied that the voice on the recording is his client’s, saying the rabbi’s enemies are trying to hurt him. Berland, a member of the Breslov Hasidic movement and founder of the Shuvu Bonim religious seminary in Israel, has denied the allegations against him.

According to the 2012 recordings, made by two of his followers, Berland is heard instructing followers to place a bomb under the bed of an unnamed person and admitting to ordering a string of arson attacks nearly two decades ago.

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