Israeli dies of COVID-19 in Peru prison where he was held for drug trafficking

Foreign Ministry says it’s assisting family of the deceased, named as Tzachi Moalem, who was serving a 20-year sentence

Smoke rising from the Castro Castro prison during a riot in Lima, April 28, 2020  (STR / AFP)
Smoke rising from the Castro Castro prison during a riot in Lima, April 28, 2020 (STR / AFP)

An Israeli man serving a prison sentence in a Peruvian jail has died of the coronavirus, the Foreign Ministry confirmed Tuesday.

The ministry said that it was providing assistance to the man’s family but could give no further details.

Hebrew media named the man as Tzachi Moalem and said he was serving a 20-year sentence for his involvement in the trafficking of cocaine.

The virus has surged in Latin America and the Caribbean, and Peru has recorded the third highest number of deaths in the region — 6,688. It has the second-most coronavirus cases in Latin America, after Brazil.

Inmates during a prison protest at Lurigancho prison in Lima, Peru, April 28, 2020 (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

Peru has freed 1,500 inmates over the past two months to ease overcrowding in prisons that have seen riots and deaths from the coronavirus.

The Peruvian government says at least 212 inmates have died of COVID-19 and at least 67 are being treated for it in hospitals.

Another 15 prison guards have died of the disease and 17 have been hospitalized. Hundreds more have resigned, fearing infection.

The Peruvian justice ministry says 97,000 people are in prison in the country — representing roughly double the capacity of its 68 prisons.

Last month, an Israeli woman jailed in Peru over allegations of attempted drug smuggling was released to house arrest.

Hodaya Monsonego, 24, who was later jailed in Lima, Peru, for her alleged involvement in a suspected drug smuggling operation. (Screenshot/Channel 12)

Hodaya Monsonego, 24, was arrested approximately ten months ago in Lima for her alleged involvement in an attempt to smuggle a large amount of cocaine from Peru to Israel.

In a report aired February on Channel 12, her family said that Monsonego is mentally impaired and that she was likely exploited by a friend and the friend’s relative, who, according to the report, was the mastermind of the operation.

President Reuven Rivlin in February wrote a letter to the president of Peru, Martín Vizcarra, asking him to grant clemency to Monsonego, who suffers from “medical issues and has been diagnosed with limited cognitive ability” that impairs her judgment.

The announcement of the most recent freeing of people serving time for minor offenses was made in a weekend statement by Peruvian Justice Minister Fernando Castaneda.

Inmates fearing contagion with the virus in jam-packed prisons have staged several riots in Peru. The last of these came on May 19 in the south of the country, and left 14 prisoners and guards injured.

In the worst prison riot, nine inmates died in an uprising in late April at a prison near Lima. A total of 67 prisoners, guards and police were injured.

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