About 700 followers of Rabbi Eliezer Berland demonstrated Monday morning outside the South African embassy in Israel in Ramat Gan calling for the release of their leader who is wanted in Israel for suspected sexual assault.
The 78-year-old head of the Shuvu Banim sect has been on the run around the world and escaped several arrest attempts. Berland fled from Israel in 2012 after several women as well as a 15-year-old girl laid charges of sexual harassment against him.
Musa Masrawa of the South African Consul General of Israel went out to and spoke with the protesters: "I came here because I understand your feelings," he said. "I do not have the authority to release the rabbi, but I can certainly help if the rabbi is entitled to his freedom."
David Shainberg, a follower of the rabbi, who attended the meeting with the consul, told Walla! News that "We told him that the rabbi is in critical condition, his health is deteriorating and he needs medical treatment.”
"We said he should not be in prison, and you could put him under house arrest. He said he would write an affidavit to the state and explained that if he is innocent, then they will release him. We are worried about his health. Israel want to discredit and him. I do not think that's the solution. The rabbi is in charge and he will decide himself when to return. In the meantime, there have to worry about his condition.”
Berland, who spend Passover Seder behind bars in a Johannesburg jail, was denied release to house arrest by the Randburg Magistrate’s Court for fear that he would attempt to evade trial.