Lawyers representing the CEO of the website, “Behadrei Haredim,” accused the police of starting an investigation and filing charges as a result of the website’s attacks against Jerusalem district police commander, Nisso Shaham, and his predecessor, Aryeh Amit. The lawyers claim that recent police actions are in response to pictures posted of Shaham wearing an SS uniform.
Lead detective on the case, Ronen Mizrahi, commented on the claims during a hearing held on Wednesday, meant to extend the remand of the CEO. Mizrahi called the claims “ugly, false speculation.”
Mizrahi added that charges include ten documented cases of extortion, and two cases have recently been added to the investigation, one of which concerns the extortion of a person living abroad.
“The investigation will continue for a long time to come,” said the lead detective. Pointing to a disk, he explained, “There are thousands of sources of information on this disk taken from the cellular phone of the suspect, including phone numbers and text messages.”
A hearing to extend the CEO’s remand took place last week as well. During that hearing, a police representative summarized the claims made against the CEO. “The suspect turned ‘Behadrei Haredim’ into an extortion machine, meant to reap hundreds of thousands of shekels from the Haredi community, accumulating into millions over the last two years,” said the representative.
Police suspect that website staff posted incriminating messages to the website’s forums, under the guise of regular users, and then extorted the victims. Users would contact the website with requests to remove slanderous or incriminating posts - some of which posted by website staff – and then be required to pay exorbitant sums for the removal of posts.
The CEO, vice-president of sales, and two content editors were arrested. Police sources have stated that more arrests are expected to take palace.
Yaakov Izak, communications advisor to Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, considered a close associate of the arrested CEO was questioned last week.
Former Shas party chairman, Aryeh Deri, also offered testimony to the investigation during the last few days. The meeting was called to discuss Deri’s threats to sue the website for things written about him regarding an inter-Haredi political debate concerning conversions performed by the military rabbinate.
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