Mexican authorities arrested members of 17 Jewish families belonging to the extremist Jewish ultra-Orthodox sect Lev Tahor, a local outlet reported Tuesday.
Lev Tahor, meaning "pure heart" in Hebrew, was founded in Jerusalem in the 1980s by charismatic leader Rabbi Shlomo Hebrans, who died in mysterious circumstances in Mexico in 2017. The group and is estimated to number less than 300 members.
It espouses extremist anti-Zionist ideology and its practices include covering female members head to toe in black robes. Child marriages are also reportedly a common practice among members.
The group subsequently fled to Canada, where it came under intense scrutiny for alleged child abuse. The members then fled to Central America several years ago.
According to Diario de Chiapas, this week's raid was carried out by Mexican immigration authorities near the border with Guatemala.
The detainees reportedly protested the conditions in which they were kept, described as "subhuman."
Last year documents emerged that leaders of the community, counting some 280 members, sought asylum in Iran and pledged allegiance to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. In the appeal to Iran, made in 2018, sect leaders called for cooperation and help to counter what it called Zionist dominance in the Holy Land.
In April 2017, Israel designated the group a violent cult after evidence of severe mental and physical abuse of members emerged and reports that parents within the sect prevented their children from attending formal education and cut them off from the outside world surfaced.
Reprinted with permission from i24NEWS.