Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto violated a court order Monday by not boarding a plane to return from New York to Israel to stand trial for corruption, with his followers claiming he collapsed at the door of the El Al plane – marking the second time he's collapsed on his way to trial.
Followers of the corruption embroiled Pinto reported that he lost consciousness at the very doors of the plane, and that El Al staff immediately called an ambulance to evacuate him to a hospital located near JFK International Airport.
Just this April Pinto, who heads the Shuva Yisrael sect, flew from New York to Israel in accordance with a District Court order to stand trial in a high profile bribery case. However, he apparently suffered a heart attack on the plane and was brought directly to the hospital before returning to New York for medical treatment.
Pinto's followers say he suffers from cancer, that he underwent several surgeries causing him to lose 30 kilograms (66 pounds), and that he has been greatly weakened as a result.
They claim that Pinto, his family and those accompanying him, completed the entire process of getting on the plane, including check in, the security check, and checking in luggage, and that several family members had already taken their seats when he collapsed.
Pinto's lawyers transferred an announcement and relevant medical documents from the hospital to the Supreme Court in Israel.
Due to the incident the take off on the flight was delayed and eventually it left without Pinto and his family, according to his followers, who claimed he intends to go to Israel as soon as possible, potentially in the coming two to three days.
Pinto signed a plea bargain agreement last year that attributes to him crimes of bribery, attempted bribery and disruption of proceedings. The State Attorney's Office was expected to demand a one year prison sentence against the controversial rabbi.
As part of the plea agreement, Pinto would serve as a state witness against former police officer Maj. Gen. Menashe Arbiv, who is to be investigated on suspicion of receiving benefits from Pinto.
Despite admitting to involvement in the crimes, Pinto himself has been highly vocal over his innocence, claiming in hyperbolic statements to his followers that the verdict has "stabbed them with a million knives," claiming he is "the most persecuted in this generation," and blaming the corruption scandal on "satan."
The statements were later found to be violations of the plea deal, causing three of his most high-profile attorneys to quit the complex case last October.