Fugitive Israeli rabbi accused of sex abuse arrested in South Africa


JERUSALEM (JTA) — An Israeli rabbi who has been on the run to avoid extradition back to Israel on sex abuse charges has been arrested in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Rabbi Eliezer Berland, 78, has been hiding out in South Africa for the past nearly eight months with several of his followers. Since the accusations in 2012, he has also hidden in Morocco, the Netherlands and Zimbabwe.

Berland’s followers confirmed to the Israeli media that he had been arrested this week by South African police. He reportedly had been hospitalized in Johannesburg and may have been arrested there.

Israel has filed a request with South African authorities to extradite Berland, founder of the Shuvu Bonim religious seminary in Israel and a member of the Breslov Hasidic branch.

Berland, who has been accused of sexually assaulting several of his female followers, has denied the allegations against him. He fought his extradition from the Netherlands last summer on the grounds that the alleged assaults happened in the West Bank and Israel does not have jurisdiction there. He later fled the Netherlands to avoid extradition.

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