The Beersheva Magistrates' Court remanded on Tuesday the arrest of four Tlamim students by seven days. The four are suspected of having abducted and forcibly extorted Rabbi Nir Ben-Artzi for an extended period of time.
According to the charges, the four imprisoned the rabbi against his will for three and a half years, subjecting him to physical and mental abuse with the intent to extort millions upon millions through 'Talmei Geula' – the rabbi's non-profit organization.
The four – Shmuel Shukron, Zvi Weizmann, Shimon Katorza and Micha Petito – are suspected of having used the rabbi's name to fraudulently obtain funds after effectively seizing control of the organization he headed and forcing him to sign off on the necessary papers. Investigators suspect the extent of the operation totals at tens of millions of shekels (dollars).
Attorneys for the defendants, Guy Friedman and Dror Brodfred, claim however that their clients were acting in response to alleged sexual offenses committed against them by Ben-Artzi. The attorneys say that the students were only acting to save the non-profit organization.
"The police's behavior here raises questions," Friedman told Ynet. "They took Ben-Artzi's statement two months ago, and only now are they summoning the suspects for questioning. This case began with a lot of noise but it will end with barely a whimper."
Freidman added that Ben-Artzi's wife had turned to the defendants, asking them to help the organization.
A fifth student who was also detained yesterday was released due to health constraints, and he is currently under house arrest.