Lev Tahor sect said to have trafficked in human cargo
search

Lev Tahor sect said to have trafficked in human cargo

Members of radical ultra-Orthodox group accused of committing sexual assault, using psychotropic drugs and arranging forced marriages

Lev Tahor girls walking in Chatham, Ontario, in December 2013 (screen capture: YouTube)
Lev Tahor girls walking in Chatham, Ontario, in December 2013 (screen capture: YouTube)

Search warrants unsealed in Quebec allege that the haredi Orthodox sect Lev Tahor trafficked in human cargo and committed other abuses.

The documents also reveal that Interpol and Israel helped build the criminal case against the group before its 250 members fled to Guatemala in March with leader Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans.

The list of charges in the warrant issued in January include detailed allegations by former Lev Tahor members — including Helbrans’ own brother Nathan — of physical force, use of psychotropic drugs, forced marriage of juveniles and sexual assault, according to Canadian reports.

Helbrans founded Lev Tahor in Israel in the late 1980s and ran it both there and in Brooklyn, NY, where he was convicted of kidnapping, and then for a decade near Montreal.

Canada granted him asylum in 2003 based on his claimed fear of being persecuted if sent back to Israel.

In November of last year, the group fled Quebec for the adjacent province of Ontario, and four months later for Guatemala in the wake of the ongoing investigation by youth protection officials and other authorities.

This month, Lev Tahor left the village of San Juan la Laguna amid reports of rising tensions with locals for the Guatemala City capital.

The remaining 30 Lev Tahor members who had remained in Canada also reportedly left Ontario for Guatemala this month to reunite with the rest of the sect.

Join us!
A message from the Editor of Times of Israel
David Horovitz

The Times of Israel covers one of the most complicated, and contentious, parts of the world. Determined to keep readers fully informed and enable them to form and flesh out their own opinions, The Times of Israel has gradually established itself as the leading source of independent and fair-minded journalism on Israel, the region and the Jewish world.

We've achieved this by investing ever-greater resources in our journalism while keeping all of the content on our site free.

Unlike many other news sites, we have not put up a paywall. But we would like to invite readers who can afford to do so, and for whom The Times of Israel has become important, to help support our journalism by joining The Times of Israel Community. Join now and for as little as $6 a month you can both help ensure our ongoing investment in quality journalism, and enjoy special status and benefits as a Times of Israel Community member.

Become a member of The Times of Israel Community
read more:
comments