The three central defendants in a Jerusalem cult were indicted in the Jerusalem District Court on Wednesday, in a case of what police and social workers have called the worst abuse of its kind they have seen in decades.
Nine members of the cult, a well-known polygamous Breslav family based in Jerusalem, were arrested last week. Three men were taken into custody, and six women – along with 15 children – were placed in separate shelters across the country.
A gag order preventing publication of any details from the case meant that journalists were not allowed access to the full charge sheet. Instead, the court released a much-edited version Wednesday morning to protect the identities of the victims in a case that has shocked the country.
However, Judge Noam Sohlberg later ruled to release parts of the charge sheet against the three members of a Jerusalem cult charged earlier in the day.
“At least part of the horrific descriptions in the charge sheet should be brought to public notice, to parents and children, because it seems that this is not an isolated event,” wrote Sohlberg.
“There are other people whose relatives were caught in similar sects, and who had given up hope of rescuing their near ones from the sect; or who had perhaps not done everything possible in this regard because they did not know how horrific [the sects] are,” he added.
Sohlberg said that publishing details of the charges against the three cult members may be a “vital service to those families and to other people trapped in cults like this one, encouraging them not to give up, but to exhaust every possible effort to escape from the sect.” [...]
According to the edited version of the charge sheet that Judge Sohlberg included in his ruling, the first defendant was indicted on charges including slavery, abuse of a minor, false imprisonment, sexual and severe violence.
Two additional indictments were filed Wednesday against two other men in the family house, who also perpetrated violent acts and sex offenses at the behest of the “head of the family.” [...]
The cult has been in existence for more than 10 years, but it was only over the past two that the violence increased in frequency and severity. Social services had visited the family’s home a number of times in the past two years, but were unable to find any clear evidence of abuse. [...]
A breakthrough in the case came a few months ago, when the defendant’s seventh wife, who had lived in the house for a year and a half, broke away from the family. Six months later, she turned to the authorities with a harrowing story of sexual and emotional abuse.
In a police raid of the cult’s main home in Jerusalem, officers found stun guns, electric cables and wooden rods.
One of the three men indicted, who most often carried out the abuses, was known by nicknames of “Satan” and “Evil Inclination.”