Ultra-Orthodox block Jerusalem roads in protest of autopsy for suffocated baby
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Ultra-Orthodox block Jerusalem roads in protest of autopsy for suffocated baby

Court calls off postmortem for 8-month-old boy who died at daycare, apparently while choking on food, releases body for burial

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Screen capture from video of ultra-Orthodox demonstrators protesting in Jerusalem against the planned autopsy of a baby, January 2, 2019. (YouTube)
Screen capture from video of ultra-Orthodox demonstrators protesting in Jerusalem against the planned autopsy of a baby, January 2, 2019. (YouTube)

Dozens of ultra-Orthodox protesters blocked roads in Jerusalem Wednesday in protest of a planned autopsy for a baby who died the day before after apparently choking on food at a daycare center.

There were reportedly similar demonstrations in the city of Beit Shemesh, which has a large ultra-Orthodox population.

State prosecutors had wanted to carry out the postmortem in order to rule out criminal liability in the death of the eight-month-old boy, who died in the ultra-Orthodox town of Modiin Illit.

Jewish tradition generally opposes autopsies on the grounds that the body is sacred and should not be tampered with after death.

But as protesters blocked roads in the capital’s ultra-Orthodox Mea Shearim neighborhood, disrupting traffic, the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court ordered that the body be released for burial without an autopsy.

The decision came after the court received a letter from the National Center for Forensic Medicine declaring that an external examination had greatly reduced the suspicion of any criminal activity, even though the actual cause of death could only be determined by an autopsy.

The family of the boy had asked the court to instruct that the body be released without an autopsy.

During the demonstrations in Jerusalem, protesters pushed dumpsters into the road, blocking traffic. The Israel Police said it sent units to the area to assist in restoring traffic.

There were no reports of arrests.

The boy, named by the Kikar Hashabbat website as Shimon Haim Moshkovitz, was rushed to the hospital on Tuesday in critical condition after apparently choking on food at the daycare center. Medics who were alerted to the daycare found him unconscious, without a pulse and not breathing.

Despite efforts to resuscitate him, doctors eventually declared the boy dead.

Police said Tuesday that investigators took testimony from the daycare staff and collected evidence to clarify the circumstances of the incident.

Earlier this year there were clashes during the funeral procession for a one-month old baby who drowned in a hotel Jacuzzi.

Radical ultra-Orthodox groups bitterly opposed an autopsy carried out on the infant amid suspicions of foul play in his death.

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