Photo: Yoav Galai
Unknown drug smuggling
Photo: Yoav Galai
Attorney Zivin

Hasidic leader’s costly favor

Haredi man asks Rabbi Simcha Ashlag, his personal assistant to bring clothes to US for needy family. Both arrested in France after customs officials find drugs in luggage

Hasidic leader Rabbi Simcha Ashlag will return this weekend to the partial detention he and his personal assistant received in February, in which the two are forbidden to leave Paris. The reason: 20 kilograms (44 pounds) of drugs found in their suitcases.


The rabbi is the grandson of the famous Yehuda Leib Ha-Levi Ashlag, otherwise known as Baal Ha-Sulam (Author of the Ladder) and the only interpreter of the Zohar (the mystical commentary on the Torah).


In February, before leaving Israel, an ultra-Orthodox man who presented himself as a clothing manufacturer from Turkey approached Ashlag.


The man claimed that he heard that prior to his trip to the United States the rabbi was expected to fly to Turkey and therefore requested that he take four suitcases packed with clothing with him to his needy family in the United States.


The Hassidic leader agreed but when the local customs official at the Paris airport asked him and his assistant to open their luggage, it turned out that aside from clothing, there were 20 kilograms (44 pounds) of drugs hidden and folded at the bottom.


Their attorneys, Yitzhak Osbicher and Moti Zivin, who is know for assisting Israelis arrested abroad, filed a request through their representatives in Paris to allow the rabbi and his assistant to visit Israel over the holidays.


'He took advantage of their kind-heartedness'

Surprisingly, the judge allowed the two to leave Paris for a limited period of time so that they can celebrate the holidays with Ashlag’s thousands of Hassidic followers at his hatzer (court) in Bnei Brak.


Attorney Osbicher confirmed the details and said in response that “this is a rare case in which a drug smuggling suspect who is not a French citizen, is released under no conditions but rather only based on his personal liability.


“I am happy that Attorney Zivin and I managed to persuade the French judge to release the honorable Hassidic leader for the holidays without entrusting any guarantee that he will return to France," he said.


“This apparently proves that the judge is starting to believe that the Hassidic leader and his assistant were led astray and that someone took advantage of their kind-heartedness.


“We would like to emphasize that the public needs to know that a small favor they ask from someone may cause them to pay the price of a heavy and unnecessary legal case,” said Osbicher.


פרסום ראשון: 10.19.08, 14:12
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