Israeli Court Reverses Decision to Release Rabbi Pinto Early From Prison

Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto is serving a year in prison for obstruction of justice and bribing a senior police officer, who later committed suicide.

Sharon Pulwer
Sharon Pulwer
Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto, left, and Ephraim Bracha, right.
Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto, left, and Ephraim Bracha, right.
Sharon Pulwer
Sharon Pulwer

Yoshiyahu Pinto, the charismatic rabbi serving a year in prison for bribery and obstruction of justice, will not receive parole, the Lod District Court said Thursday, reversing a decision by the parole board.

Following a plea agreement, Pinto began his sentence in February for paying a bribe to police Brig. Gen. Ephraim Bracha, who later committed suicide.

In granting the prosecution's appeal, Judge Avraham Tal said confidential material showed that Pinto might renew his ties to criminals if he were released now.

The parole board had read the material as well but cited Pinto’s poor health and said there was insufficient evidence to show that he posed a danger to the public.

Tal rejected Pinto’s claim that the criminals had come to him in his capacity as a rabbi to seek advice or be blessed. Tal said that even in prison, Pinto has maintained improper contacts and that this was the reason Pinto has refused to have contact with other prisoners in therapeutic or educational activities.

Tal acknowledged that Pinto was ill and required care including surgery but said this could be provided while he remained a prisoner.

Pinto’s lawyer, Rotem Tubul, said the court’s decision showed that “there is one law for the public in general and another for Rabbi Pinto.” There were no valid grounds to overturn the parole board’s decision, she said, adding that Pinto had met “all the conditions for early release to which all prisoners are subjected.”

She said Pinto had expressed remorse and had met all the conditions regarding rehabilitation. “Unfortunately, the public atmosphere has had its effect and has entered the courtroom, which should not be allowed to happen,” Tubul said, adding that she would appeal to the Supreme Court.

The prosecution said the parole board had improperly based its decision on the expectation that Pinto would continue treatment after his release, which the prosecutors said they could not enforce.

The board granted early release after the prisoner rehabilitation authority said Pinto had expressed regret for his crimes and Bracha’s suicide, and admitted to “using the Torah for his own personal gain.”

Bracha regarded Pinto as a spiritual guide, and the rabbi would occasionally give Bracha information that helped him in white-collar and organized-crime probes. “I am no longer a rabbi and will pay for my mistake,” Pinto told the parole board.

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