Refugee in Israel Charged With Circumcizing Son, 4, With Scissors Tries to Flee

Eritrean mother arrested en route to Jordan; boy was injured in performance of what attorney describes as ‘cultural tradition’

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The construction work on the fence between Israel and Jordan. February 9, 2016.
The construction work on the fence between Israel and Jordan. February 9, 2016.Credit: Mark Israel Salem

Police have arrested an Eritrean woman on suspicion of seeking to flee to Jordan to evade trial for allegedly injuring her 4-year-old son by circumcising him with a scissors.

The woman, 37, who lives in Eilat, was indicted last month for abusing her son and cutting and injuring his penis in the circumcision, which she carried out at home on her own.

Her attorney, public defender Moshe Srogovitz, said there is no law regulating the performing of circumcisions and that the woman acted in accordance with cultural traditions.

Her trial is underway in Be’er Sheva District Court. During earlier stages of court proceedings, she denied she had done anything wrong.

“You still don’t know that what you did was wrong?” she was asked. “No, I didn’t do anything bad,” she replied.

If she is convicted she could be sentenced to as many as 14 years in prison. A ruling in her case is expected soon. She is charged with causing severe injuries, abusing a minor, aggravated assault and interfering with a police officer.

The woman has been in Israel since 2008 after escaping her village in Eritrea. In recent years she has held a cleaning job in an Eilat hotel.

“The accused has denied the charges,” said police. “In the course of the trial the judge decided to release her with restrictions. She was then arrested while attempting to cross the border into Jordan. Following her questioning, police will now request an extension of her remand.”

Srogovitz submitted to the court two expert academic opinions supporting the claim that his client was carrying out a cultural tradition in circumcizing her son in this fashion. Using cultural tradition as a defense is uncommon in Israeli trials, and the Be’er Sheva court would be setting a precedent by accepting this line of argument.

Srogovitz told Haaretz that his client tried to flee the country not to evade trial, but out of despair. Since the beginning of court proceedings, he said, her son was taken in by a foster family and her two daughters were given to the care of their father, on condition that he doesn’t live with the woman, which led him to throw her out of their apartment. .

“Her only support in the world, her partner, gave her up for the benefit of their daughters,” said Srogovitz. “This led her into a downward spiral. It’s not a matter of fleeing the country or her court case, but of leaving, since she has nothing left here. Her partner threw her out and she can’t see her children anymore. She lost any hope of seeing them again.”

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