Leading ultra-Orthodox judges who visited a 19-year-old Orthodox man charged with manslaughter over the death of his 3-month-old son say they are convinced Israel Valas is not guilty of murder.
"It's impossible that the father would kill his son. If he indeed did it, it's a sign he's sick," Orthodox court vice president Rabbi Moshe Shternbuch told Ynet after visiting Valas.
The rabbi visited the detained father along with Rabbi Yitzhak Ulman. The two are considered the ultra-Orthodox court's top judges.
After the meeting, Rabbi Shternbuch said: "We still cannot determine whether he confessed or not. It certainly wasn't a murder. The question is whether this was a case of carelessness or negligence. We'll figure out this matter. We reject the possibility he did it maliciously."
Meanwhile, leading Orthodox figures have been in close touch with police officials, and have demanded Valas' release to house arrest.
"I spoke with the police chief in Jerusalem. I told him that for now we're against the protests. If he was a murderer, than obviously he should not be released for the safety of the public, but that's not the case," Rabbi Shternbuch said.
When asked about biting signs on the infant's body, the rabbi said: "The bite wasn't something that endangered the child."
The infant's grandmother on the mother's side, Liba Weinstock, told Ynet: "It's very difficult for the mother to handle this alone without her husband. They didn't let him out for the Seder…we're certain he's innocent."
The family also says the infant did not receive any treatment for eight hours after being brought to the hospital.
"He arrived at the hospital at 11 p.m. and nobody checked him until 9 a.m. They put all their efforts into investigating what happened and not into taking care of the child," the grandmother said.
However, her testimony comes in direct contradiction to the words of Hadassah Ein Kerem's Intensive Care director Ido Yatsiv.
The director said the infant received immediate treatment after arriving at the hospital unconscious and suffering from hemorrhages in the left side of his face.
"It was clear there was a serious blow, but the direction wasn't clear," Yatsiv said. "At that time the pupils responded to light and there was a bit of spontaneous movement of the hands, but he didn't open his eyes of his own accord and was still unconscious."
On Sunday, a large, official ultra-Orthodox protest is planned to express support for the father. In the past week, leading figures in the Orthodox community have been trying to enlist the support of the entire Orthodox community, and have been meeting with influential rabbis to that end.