Yemenite Sect Leader Meshulam Convicted in Last Year’s Shootout

Rabbi Uzi Meshulam, the radical Yemenite sect leader, was convicted last week in connection with a fatal shootout with police last year.

Meshulam and 11 followers were convicted of a series of offenses, including endangering lives, insurgency, conspiracy, illegal possession of weapons and assault.

Last March, Meshulam and 100 of his followers holed up in a heavily fortified home in Yehud, near Tel Aviv, demanding that a commission of inquiry be formed to investigate the fates of hundreds of Yemenite children who disappeared after their families emigrated to Israel in the 1950s.

Meshulam and other members of the Yemenite community have alleged that the children were sold for adoption.

In May, after several attempts to negotiate with Meshulam failed, police stormed the Yehud house. One of Meshulam’s followers was killed by a sharpshooter after he shot at a police helicopter.

The trial, which began in August, was interrupted by sporadic demonstrations by the defendants and their followers both inside and outside the courtroom.

During Tuesday’s hearing, Meshulam was given permission to leave the court after threatening to break into song if forced to take part in what he called “this game of democracy.”

Judge Amnon Strashnov of the Tel Aviv District Court took two hours to read the 90-page ruling before pronouncing Meshulam and his followers guilty of crimes relating to the siege in Yehud.

They will be sentenced at a later date.

The government earlier this year appointed a state enquiry into the disappearance of the Yemenite children.

In December, another committee headed by retired Judge Moshe Shalgi concluded that there had been no wrongdoing and that most of the children had died of various illnesses.

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