An Israeli man jailed in India for alleged possession of illicit drugs reportedly attempted a daring escape on Thursday with the help of a Jewish-American accomplice, only to be foiled by local police, the Indo Asian News Service reported Friday.
Neria Bendavid, who has been held in Goa, a coastal region known as a top party destination, since January, has been on trial for the alleged possession of 10 grams of liquid LSD. His family has been running a Facebook page calling for his release.
India is a popular destination for young Israelis, many of whom tour there after their mandatory stint in the army. There have been several cases of Israelis jailed in the country on drug charges in recent years.
According to Indian police sources quoted in the report, a US citizen, Naftali Samuel, attempted to bail out Bendavid, 20, after Bendavid was taken to a state-run psychiatric facility.
He rented a motorcycle in advance, and was going to use it to transport himself and Bendavid to a taxi waiting on a nearby highway with their luggage, the report said.
“The planning was thorough,” Deputy Superintendent Umesh Gaonkar was quoted as saying. “The motorcycle was kept near the canteen at [the psychiatric facility] two days in advance and this knowledge was given to the Israeli.”
According to the report, when Bendavid emerged from the facility, Samuel accosted his armed escort, beat them and sprayed them with pepper spray.
Samuel was eventually overpowered by police, who were aided by onlookers, but Bendavid hopped onto the motorcycle and drove off, with the officers in close pursuit, the report said.
He was later apprehended, with a senior police officer saying that the escape attempt was “a Bollywood-style plan, which was worthy of a film script. The planning was meticulous and was done days in advance.”
Inspector General Sunil Garg said that until several months ago, Samuel was in charge of security at the Chabad house in Mumbai giving him “good knowledge of security.”
Samuel was responsible for security there during the terror attack on the facility in 2008 that saw Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg killed along with four others, the report said.
Gaonkar said that Samuel had been serving as the caretaker of the Chabad house in Goa since February 2015.
“We had booked the Israeli in January,” Gaonkar told the Indo Asian News Service. “The American came in the month of February. So all these links we have to verify. Yesterday, I interrogated (Samuel), he told me that when he came to the Chabad house (in Goa), he came to know about the Israeli who was caught in the drug case. He said he wanted to help him because he was a ‘good man.’”