Hebrew Teacher in Brazil Insists He’s Innocent in Child-porn Case

A Hebrew teacher jailed here on charges of engaging in child pornography is maintaining his innocence.

In a jailhouse interview with JTA, George Steinberg said he had no idea that a 17-year-old girl who turned him in was underage. He assumed she was older than 18, he said, because she worked at a night club.

The case sparked a furor in Brazil after an Israeli diplomat, Arie Scher, was also accused of involvement. Scher, who served the Israeli government in China for two years before coming to Rio de Janeiro, was subsequently recalled to the Jewish state, where officials are investigating the matter.

Police searched Steinberg’s home last week after the girl — identified only by the initial M. — accused Steinberg, 40, of taking a nude photo of her and posting it on an Internet site.

According to reports at the time, Steinberg implicated Scher after police found pornographic videos and more than 100 pictures of young girls in compromising positions at Steinberg’s house. The pictures of nude teen-age girls were allegedly taken at Scher’s apartment.

During the interview, Steinberg said he never implicated Scher.

“M. did it,” he told JTA, adding that Scher, too, is innocent.

“Arie is a good fellow. He was doing a good job as a consul and he asked millions of times” to make sure the photographed girls were not underage.

Steinberg admitted that one of the pictures had been taken at Scher’s pool and that another was taken atop the diplomat’s car. But he said the subject of the photo had shown him a document proving her age and that she had been photographed with her mother’s permission.

Steinberg denied M.’s accusation that he had posted her nude photo on the Internet.

“She saw herself on my computer monitor, but I was not connected to the Internet. I know how to use Internet only to receive e-mail, and M. doesn’t know how to open a site.”

Steinberg claimed that M.’s accusations were a simple case of revenge.

“She used to come home drunk, and when I sent her away she got angry and wanted the pictures back.”

Steinberg said Scher was right to return to Israel rather than face the Brazilian justice system.

“Arie is right not to remain in Brazil,” he said. “The way things are conducted here, no one can rely on justice in Brazil. There are people here in prison for two years without having seen a judge.”

Steinberg, who said the police had accused him of a crime without having any proof, said, “I just want to get out of prison.

“If it wasn’t for the great media exposure, I would be already out,” he said. “But the media inflate the case because it involves a diplomat, and they distort my words.”

Steinberg said he hopes to be able to return to teaching “because I did nothing bad.”

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