Ultra-Orthodox News Site Head Denied Bail, Decries Conditions

Head of the popular ultra-Orthodox website Behadrei Haredim accused of extorting large sums of money from public figures.

A lawyer for the director of an ultra-Orthodox website says the police have unfairly accused his client of extortion, as a court extended the man's detention until Monday.

The head of the popular ultra-Orthodox website Behadrei Haredim, whose full name has not been released, has been accused of extorting large sums of money from public figures. In exchange, his site would not publish damaging information.

Staff at the Behadrei Haredim site Oct. 29, 2010 (Tomer Appelbaum)
Tomer Appelbaum

The lawyer, Yehoshua Reznik, says his client has been persecuted by the police for launching a campaign against Jerusalem police commander Nisso Shaham and his predecessor Aryeh Amit. The site published a doctored picture of Shaham wearing a Nazi uniform.

Reznik also said yesterday the police seek to humiliate his client by holding him in demeaning conditions, where he does not receive cutlery and is forced to eat with his hands. "I've been practicing law for more than 30 years and I've never seen a suspect detained in such humiliating conditions," he said.

Even though the police asked that the detention be extended by 10 days, a judge at the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court, Tamar Bar-Asher-Zaban, approved an extension until Monday. She said she wasn't convinced the suspect could obstruct the investigation.

A police official, Ronen Mizrahi, dismissed the defense's allegations, calling them "ugly and false speculation." He said the police had concrete evidence of at least 10 cases of extortion, two of which have been added to the case in the past two days. "This investigation will go on for a long time," Mizrahi said, adding that he wanted to see the suspect in custody for at least another 30 days.