Kiryat Arba Chief Rabbi Dov Lior was detained earlier this week because he was suspected of inciting to violence and racism and not because of his opinions on the interpretation of halakha, Jewish religious law, National Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch told the Knesset on Wednesday.
"The rabbi was brought in for questioning at the National Unit for the Investigation of Serious and International Crime, was questioned for about an hour and when it concluded was sent on his way," the minister said. "In a Jewish and democratic state, every person is equal before the law and no person is above it," he added.
Lior was questioned by police followed his endorsement of the controversial book "Torat Hamelech," by Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira, which allegedly justifies the killing on non-Jews. Lior has called the accusations baseless, saying the book addresses the issue of killing of non-Jews during wartime. Aharonovitch countered that the book was reviewed by the State Prosecutor's office and found to contain inciting material.
Meanwhile, MK Yaakov Katz, chairman of the National Union, threatened to take revenge against those responsible for the arrest."We will get back at whoever is responsible for Rabbi Lior's arrest," he said in an interview with the newsletter "Eretz Yisrael Shelanu."
Katz told the publication that he believes Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is personally responsible for Lior's arrest. "Netanyahu and those under his command will be remembered forever in disgrace for the arrest of this genius of Israel," Katz said, adding that Lior's only crime was what he has written and his endorsement of a book of halakha, adding that this was a "direct extension" of arrests of Jews made by communist authorities dating as far back to the time of the second century figure Rabbi Akiva.
Referring to Lior's arrest as "this crime," Katz said it would not "pass quietly, and the time will come when we get back at them." He added: "All those who speak morning and night about the destruction of the State of Israel, informing on our soldiers to the United Nations and to our enemies, extremist left-wing writers who say explicitly that the settlers must be harmed, they have immunity. The prosecutor's office would never issue an arrest warrant against them.
"I say that it will ultimately even be clear to [Deputy State Prosecutor] Shai Nitzan that the strong people of all the generations are the loyal Maccabees of God and Torah and we will win, big time. All of those committing those criminal acts ostensibly in the name of the law will be brought to justice."
Joining critics of his own government's action, Religious Services Minister Yaakov Margi of Shas complained that the rabbi, who is in his late 70s, was "abducted on his way to Jerusalem like the lowest criminal."
After an investigation file was opened last year, Lior, was summoned for police questioning but said he would not appear. An arrest warrant was then issued in January 2011, Aharonovitch said, adding: "Until recently additional efforts were made by a number of parties to arrange a meeting at which Rabbi Lior could be questioned on suspicion of committing a crime, but they were not successful."
Lior told reporters that he ignored the police orders to report for questioning because he considered them illegitimate. His supporters have accused the authorities of violating Lior's freedom of speech and have complained that inflammatory remarks made by leftists against nationalist Israelis did not draw similar sanctions.
With reporting by AP.
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