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Extradition of Nakash Mired in Conflict Between Religion and Law

October 6, 1987
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The extradition of William Nakash, wanted in France to serve a life sentence for murder, may depend on the resolution of a conflict between religious and civil law.

Although the Supreme Court ordered his extradition some time ago, the rabbinical court for the Jerusalem district refused Monday to cancel its restraining order against extradition, requested by the Attorney General.

The rabbinical court maintained that the issue was the status of Nakash’s wife who, under religious law, would become an Aguna — abandoned woman — if her husband is returned to France, and could never remarry.

The court said it would meet again in two weeks in an effort to persuade Nakash, who is in prison here, to grant his wife a “provisional bill of divorcement” which she could invoke whenever she wanted. In any event, the rabbis ruled the ban on extradition would remain in force for another six months, though the period could be reduced or extended.

Nakash, who is of Algerian origin, fled to Israel several years ago after he was indicted for the murder of an Arab in Besancon, a city in northeastern France. He was tried in absentia and sentenced to life imprisonment. But the French authorities said he would be retried when extradited.

His cause was taken up by religious and rightwing elements in Israel who claimed he killed the Arab in self-defense and therefore it was a political act rather than murder. The French authorities disagreed. Israeli jurists who investigated the case concluded that the murder was the outcome of a quarrel among underworld elements in Besancon. Nakash’s accomplice was an Arab, now serving a sentence in France.

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