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A popular rabbi from northern Israel was arrested Thursday on suspicion of rape, sodomy and indecent assault on minors. The rabbi, whose name has not been released by the authorities, was arrested just as he was about to leave the country.

The suspect said he was on his way to a religious celebration in Turkey, but it is believed he would have continued from there to the United States.

On Friday the Nazareth Magistrate's Court remanded the rabbi, 60, for eight days.

According to Superintendent Aryeh Alkobi of the Afula police, three complaints against the rabbi have already been filed with the police, but they believe there are additional victims who have not yet come forward. The investigation was reportedly launched several months ago.

The rabbi is suspected of sodomizing and indecently assaulting a 14-year-old girl some three years ago, as well as indecently assaulting a number of boys over the past year.

According to the girl's family, who are also followers of the rabbi, the suspect attacked the girl when she went to his home to receive a blessing to help heal her medical problems.

The girl came forward a few months ago, after the rabbi had been suspected of attacking several boys.

According to Alkobi, the police have solid evidence linking the rabbi to the allegations and will be investigating his version of events in the coming days.

According to the rabbi's attorneys, their client has been framed by yeshiva students disgruntled over being ousted from positions in yeshivas which the rabbi controlled. They also said the father of the female complainant was caught stealing money from a charity box at an institution controlled by the rabbi, and that the rabbi had been blackmailed by another party wanting to receive a position in one of his institutions.

The attorneys handed over to police recordings of conversations, in which they say the complainants reveal that the rabbi never actually touched them and that they had been coached to make the allegations.