Fugitive rabbi sentenced to 18 months in prison for sexual assault
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Fugitive rabbi sentenced to 18 months in prison for sexual assault

(JTA) — A rabbi who was extradited to Israel from South Africa after years on the run was sentenced to 18 months in prison for sexual assault.

Rabbi Eliezer Berland, the 79-year-old founder of the Shuvu Bonim religious seminary in Israel, was sentenced on Tuesday afternoon in Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court a week after he admitted to two counts of indecent acts and one of assault under a plea bargain that cleared him of other molestation charges.

He was also ordered by the court to pay about $6,500 to three of his victims.

“I sincerely regret, from the bottom of my heart, all that I have done to harm a man or a woman, I regret every harmful act that was caused by me, whether directly or indirectly. My regret is sincere,” said Berland, a leader of the Breslov Hasidic movement, according to Ynet.

Berland was returned to Israel in July after being arrested four months earlier in Johannesburg. He had spent a year in South Africa along with dozens of followers.

He 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 had been held in custody since returning to Israel since he was deemed a flight risk.