Friday, May 19, 2006

Extradition for Gafni?

Andrew Friedman of Ynet has published this:-

Now that a formal police complaint has been filed against Gafni regarding his latest his behavior as rabbi of the Bayit Chadash community, there is a rare opportunity for religious, civil and political leaders to cut across partisan, and international, lines.

Especially in light of the apparent failure of Haifa police to act quickly on the current complaints, thus allowing Gafni/Winyarz to flee the country, Israel's legal establishment must move quickly and strongly to investigate the matter, and to determine if indeed there is enough evidence to warrant a trial.

On a political level, Prime Minister Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzippi Livni and Justice Minister Chaim Ramon must make clear that they will demand Gafni/Winyarz's extradition from the United States should such a move be necessary to bring Gafni to justice.

Chief Rabbis Yona Metzger and Shlomo Amar should also join the call for a full investigation, especially in light of the corruption allegations hanging over Metzger's head. Their support for an investigation of Gafni/Winyarz would do something to repair the damage those allegations have done to the profession of "rabbi," and would strengthen ultra-Orthodox claims to be concerned for the ethical make up of this country.

In addition, several well-known rabbinic and civic leaders in both the United States and Israel have supported Gafni/Winyarz for years, and consistently defended him against his many accusers. Now, individuals such as Jacob Ner-David, a Jerusalem-based social activist and entrepreneur, U.S. rabbis Joseph Telushkin, Arthur Waskow and others, must join the call for Gafni to be returned Israel to stand trial, should legal authorities find sufficient basis for such. As individuals who have defended Gafni for many years, their names have also now been called into question.

Some items in his commentary are explained here in this additional report:-

Rabbi Gafni accused of sexual assault

Three women file complaint with Haifa police against modern-Orthodox rabbi, claiming he sexually harassed them during Torah lessons, promised to marry them; Gafni meanwhile flees country to US

Three young women in their twenties who reside in the heart of Israel filed a complaint several days ago with Haifa police against Rabbi Mordechai Gafni, claiming he sexually harassed them during Torah lessons conducted at his Jaffa center.

The women's attorney, Tami Olman, told Ynet that the police did not take the allegations seriously, allowing the rabbi to meanwhile leave the country.

Haifa police officials admitted they have collected the complainants' testimonies, in which they claim the rabbi promised each of them separately he would marry her if she had sex with him. Some of the women were Gafni's students.

According to Attorney Olman, the complainants accused Gafni of rape, sexual harassment and indecent assault and notified police that once the rabbi learns of the complaint against him he is likely to try to flee the country. However, Olman said, no measures have been taken to prevent Gafni's departure.

To make matters worse, Olman said that once in the United States, Rabbi Gafni sent a letter addressed to his congregation in which he apologized to its members for what he had done.

In a letter Attorney Olman sent to the officer in charge of the investigation, she stated: "It is curious that the suspect, whom you said there was no hurry to interrogate, confessed to the allegations against him in a letter from the United States, after he fled the Israel Police's 'effective investigation'… the manner in which this affair has been handled does no honor to the police, to say the least."

Olman also said she intends to demand that an investigation be launched against the relevant elements at the Haifa police who neglected the treatment of the complaint.

Chief superintendent of the Haifa police Ahuva Tomer told Ynet in response that although the complaint itself was not filed with the Haifa police, officers at the station were willing to make an exception and collect the testimonies in Haifa, in order to save the women the trip to Tel Aviv.

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