THE HAGUE, Netherlands (JTA) — An Israeli rabbi who fought his extradition from the Netherlands for alleged sex crimes may be turned over to Israeli authorities, a Dutch court ruled.
The ruling on Eliezer Berland, the founder of the Shuvu Bonim seminary, was made by a Haarlem tribunal on Thursday at the request of Dutch justice officials who support extraditing Berland as per the request of Israeli prosecutors, the NRC Handelsblad reported in its online edition. The final decision on whether to send him to Israel will be made by the justice minister of the Netherlands, Ivo Opstelten, in the coming weeks.
Berland, a Braslav rabbi who is suspected of sexually assaulting several of his female followers, including one minor, denies the allegations. He was apprehended in Amsterdam in September during a layover at Schiphol Airport on his way from South Africa to Ukraine. Since fleeing Israel in 2012, he has lived in Morocco, Zimbabwe and Switzerland.
The court dismissed all of the objections raised by Berland’s attorney, who cited the rabbi’s poor health and that Israel does not have jurisdiction to prosecute his actions.
In an interview last month for a Dutch daily, Berland, who was born in prestate Israel in 1937, claimed he was persecuted in Israel for what he defined as his love of Palestinians and that he survived the Holocaust in the Buchenwald death camp, though no such record exists.
Several dozen devout followers from Israel followed Berland and settled in the Netherlands to be near their spiritual leader.