Photo: Ata Awisat
Meah Shearim demonstration (archives)
Photo: Ata Awisat

Jerusalem Police against chastity squad

Meah Shearim residents agitated following wave of arrests of 'modesty guard' activists. In one of demonstrations held every evening, youngsters flip over police car in capital. 'The chastity squad activists are doing what the police should be doing,' senior community member says

The ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Meah Shearim in Jerusalem was shaken up last week following the arrest of three residents suspected of being active in the haredi community's chastity squad.


Demonstrations in protest of the arrest were held in the neighborhood's Shabbat Square every evening in the past week, and on Thursday, protestors clashed with police forces and even flipped over a police car on Yoel Street.


The first person arrested three weeks ago was Elhanan Buzaglo, who was indicted of attacking a woman suspected of improper ties with married men in the capital's Maalot Dafna neighborhood. According to the indictment, Buzaglo received $2,000 in return for his involvement in the attack.


Clashes on Yoel St., Thursday (Photo: Pini Rosen)


Following his arrest, two additional suspects were detained last week. One of them is Shmuel Weisfish, who was allegedly involved in the torching of a store selling MP4 players against a ruling of the Ultra-Orthodox community's court of justice.


On Wednesday, the police arrested Binyamin Meirovich, a Jerusalem resident suspected of being one of the chastity squad's leaders, and the person responsible for the organization's operations. The police were expected to ask the court to extend his remand on Friday.


Battle against MP4 players

The protests against the three men's arrest were intensified Monday after the court decided to leave Weisfish in custody for seven additional days. The demonstrators directed their anger at a store on the Shabbat Square accused of selling "non-kosher" MP4 players.


On Wednesday evening, a group of yeshiva students demonstrated opposite another store in Meah Shearim, demanding that it stop selling "impure films."


The haredi community accused the police of "deciding to destroy the chastity squad," according to a prominent community member, who said that the "modesty guard" had nothing to do with the violent incidents.


"The chastity squad members are doing the work the police should have done. Instead of thanking us for putting things in order, they are acting against us and trying to destroy the guard," he added.


'Instead of saying thank you, they arrest us' (Photo: Pini Rosen)


Jerusalem Police Spokesman Shmulik Ben Ruby said in response that "following a strenuous investigation conducted over the past weeks, three haredi men suspected of hooliganism, attacks and vandalism were arrested and brought before the court for a remand hearing.


"The court extended their remand, and the police plan to recommend that they be charged with severe violations and belonging to an illegal organization harassing some of the haredi community members whose conduct is not to the liking of the chastity squad thugs."


Murder threats

The indictment filed against Buzaglo unrolls the details of the severe incident.


"On June 1, 2008, at around 10:45 pm, the defendant arrived with six other people at the complainant's home, armed with a bat and tear gas. The defendant and the others shoved the complainant, dropped her to the floor, beat her, slammed her head against the floor and kicked all parts of her body. The defendant or one of the others sat on her head in a bid to prevent her from seeing what was going on and to prevent her from resisting.


"The defendant and the others also tied a piece of cloth to the complainant's mouth and warned her that should she open her eyes they would spray tear gas into them. The defendant or one of the others interrogated the complainant on her relations with men and asked for those men's details. The assailants took two cell phones from the complainant in order to check the names of those who called her.


"At the end of the incident, the defendant or one of the others told the complainant that she must leave her apartment, otherwise 'this will only be the beginning,' and that if she remained there she would be murdered."


Following the incident, the complainant suffered from serious injuries in all parts of her body and was in need of medical care.


According to the indictment, the complainant stated that the threats against her did not cease after the severe incident she described and that had she received continuous threatening phone calls throughout the following week.


A month later, she found a threatening letter in her mailbox and decided to leave her apartment, although her leasing contract would only expire in about a year.


Buzaglo was arrested after the police found his fingerprints in the complainant's apartment, although he denied the accusations and the complainant said she didn't know him and had never seen him before.


Judge Nava Ben Or was convinced that Buzaglo was not ideologically affiliated with the chastity squads, but ruled that he appeared to be "a rented fist".


"A man who is allegedly willing to take part in the cruel beating of a young and helpless woman, 'suspected' of socializing with married men, and all this solely for money, is a dangerous, conscienceless person with no inhibitions. His activity in the framework of such an organization makes his dangerousness seven times worse," the judge added.


The judge explained her decision to leave Buzaglo in custody, saying that the court had a duty to protect the defendant, that there was fear the defendant would attempt to disrupt the investigation and that he was convicted of violent offenses in the past, including blackmail.


Buzaglo's lawyer, Attorney Ariel Atari told Ynet that he would appeal the court's decision.


פרסום ראשון: 08.22.08, 07:59
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