Orthodox cult abuse case - Olivier Fitoussi  - August 1 2011
The main suspect in the cult abuse case at court, August 1, 2011. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi
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Israel Police, in cooperation with Jerusalem district officers and social services, arrested nine members of a cult living in Jerusalem and in the Tiberias area over the past few weeks, on suspicion of carrying out emotional and physical abuse of women and children over a two year period,

An undercover investigation into the cult was initiated following a complaint submitted by a young women to Jerusalem Police two and half months ago. The details of the arrests were revealed on Tuesday.

The investigation was uncovered at the beginning of July following a raid that police carried out for social services on the residences of cult members, two in Jerusalem and one  in Tiberias.

During that raid, police arrested an ultra-Orthodox man from the Bratslav sect suspected of leading the cult; the suspect is unofficially married to six women, most of them divorced with children.

The man allegedly sent the women and the children to various parts of the country to collect money for the maintenance the cult, as well as putting on shows featuring children in order to collect funds for the group.

Another suspect was arrested as the alleged right-hand man of the cult leader, as was a third suspected of filling in on occasion for the cult leader. The three are suspected of carrying out serious physical and sexual abuse, including rape, on some of the women and children.

The main three suspects will be presented with indictments tomorrow on charges of imprisonment, abuse, serious sexual abuse and slavery, Jerusalem Police said.

Deputy Director of Jerusalem Social Services, Menachem Geshel, said that this was the most serious serious case he had ever come across in all the years he has worked in social services.