The lawyer for an Israeli man accused of running a major online marijuana marketplace says his client was beaten by Ukrainian police after being caught following a failed escape attempt.
Ukraine’s SBU security service said Saturday it had found Amos Dov Silver in “one of the regions of our country,” after he escaped while being extradited back to Israel.
Uri Corb told Israel’s Channel 12 news that Silver told him he had been “beaten like an animal” by Ukrainian police and suffered “many injuries.”
Pictures published by Israeli media showed Silver in handcuffs with bruises to his face and marks on his arms. Corb told the channel his nose may have been broken as well, and blamed Israeli authorities, who have been working with Kiev to capture and bring back Silver.
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Silver managed to slip away while awaiting a flight at Kiev’s Boryspil airport during the process of his extradition. An Israeli officer was meant to escort Silver back to Israel, but none was sent in time, the Haaretz daily reported.
The SBU said it had detained three of its own employees suspected of helping Silver escape, and that he would be extradited “in the near future.”
In a statement on Saturday, Israeli police said they had cooperated with Ukrainian counterparts in Silver’s arrest, saying he was found in Uman, a city in central Ukraine popular among Jewish pilgrims for being the burial place of the founder of the Breslov Hasidic dynasty.
According to Channel 12 news, Silver was planning on fleeing to the US and intended to spend two days in Uman before crossing into Moldova on Sunday.
Corb said that Silver was a US citizen and he had asked the embassy for help, as well as the Israeli Foreign Ministry.
“The fact that he is a suspect does not justify treating him violently and beating him like an animal,” Corb said.
Silver, who founded the Telegrass, virtual marijuana marketplace, which operated on the Telegram messaging application, was arrested in Ukraine in March, along with dozens of other people in Israel, the US, and Germany, accused of running the drug ring.
He was released to house arrest last month as he fought his extradition.
While the drug most prominently sold on Telegrass was marijuana, an April indictment stated that other, more serious drugs including LSD and MDMA were also marketed.
The State Prosecutor’s Office estimated that hundreds of millions of shekels were circulated through the network over the past two years, with the suspects mediating between more than 3,000 drug sellers and some 200,000 buyers, pocketing roughly NIS 30 million ($8.36 million) in the process.
In the years before his arrest, Silver was an activist for cannabis legalization, including organizing The Big Bong Night in 2014 — an audacious cannabis legalization protest in front of the Knesset in Jerusalem.
In March, Silver wrote a letter to the Israel Police from his Ukrainian prison, saying, “You can break my spirit and maybe even destroy my soul, but you are making a terrible mistake. The distorted and bizarre picture that you are trying to paint, while violating and trampling on my basic rights in order to have me convicted of a crime I never committed, [is destined to fail].”
Israel has taken steps in recent years to make medical cannabis available and is poised to become a major exporter of the crop. Recreational use of the drug remains illegal, though the Public Security Ministry partially decriminalized it in 2017, setting fines and treatment for initial offenders instead of criminal procedures.