Former Guatemala mayor jailed for expelling Jewish group
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Former Guatemala mayor jailed for expelling Jewish group

Rodolfo Perez claimed Lev Tahor members disrespected local traditions, particularly concerning the dead

Members of an Orthodox Jewish community put a label from the 'International Rescue Committee for Jewish Families of the Lev Tahor Settlement' on the window of a bus in Guatemala city on September 25, 2016.  (AFP PHOTO / JOHAN ORDONEZ)
Members of an Orthodox Jewish community put a label from the 'International Rescue Committee for Jewish Families of the Lev Tahor Settlement' on the window of a bus in Guatemala city on September 25, 2016. (AFP PHOTO / JOHAN ORDONEZ)

The former mayor of a town in western Guatemala has been sentenced to a year in prison for forcing out a community of ultra-Orthodox Jews in 2014, prosecutors said Tuesday.

Rodolfo Perez was found guilty of coercion over the incident in the predominantly indigenous town of San Juan La Laguna.

He was given the option of paying a $1,000 fine to escape jail time.

During his trial, Perez argued he had given the expulsion order to end “a clash of cultures” with the community of around 500 ultra-Orthodox Jews, many of whom had arrived in 2014 from Canada, where they had battled allegations of child abuse.

He argued that the community, hailing from various Latin American and European countries as well as the US and Israel, had disrespected local indigenous traditions, particularly concerning the dead, and conflicts had arisen with locals.

The Jewish group moved to the outskirts of the capital, Guatemala City, 75 kilometers (45 miles) away, in September 2014.

After police raided their community last year looking for a girl that Israel had declared kidnapped and to look for child abuse, they relocated to a town to the east, Oratorio, where they plan to build homes.

The group practices an ultra-orthodox form of Judaism started in the 1980s and known as Lev Tahor, under which the women wear a form of black head-to-toe cloaks similar to the Muslim chador.

Its adherents do not believe the state of Israel to be religiously legitimate.

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