Ultra-Orthodox infant buried after court-ordered autopsy

Ultra-Orthodox infant buried after court-ordered autopsy

Judges rule procedure necessary to check if baby died after shaking by carer, in spite of family objection and riots in Jerusalem, Beit Shemesh

Ultra-Orthodox men protest in Jerusalem on January 7, 2016, after authorities ordered an autopsy on a four-month-old infant from the community (screen capture: Channel 2)
Ultra-Orthodox men protest in Jerusalem on January 7, 2016, after authorities ordered an autopsy on a four-month-old infant from the community (screen capture: Channel 2)

A deceased infant child of ultra-Orthodox parents was laid to rest Thursday night after undergoing a minor autopsy to determine the cause of death, in spite of vehement objection by the ultra-Orthodox community and the baby’s parents.

The Supreme Court ordered the limited autopsy late Thursday, rejecting the family’s appeal, over suspicions that 4-month-old Moshe Mizrachi died due to violent shaking by a carer at his day center.

The results of the autopsy were not immediately made public. The carer denied any wrongdoing.

Following the court’s decision, ultra-Orthodox rioters set garbage cans alight in Beit Shemesh. Earlier, rioters in Jerusalem and Beit Shemesh blocked roads, set trash cans on fire and threw stones at police officers in protest of the autopsy. Thirteen people were arrested.

For religious reasons, many members of the ultra-Orthodox community believe the bodies of the deceased should not be tampered with, and generally oppose the conduct of autopsies except in extreme cases.

The infant was the grandson of Beit Shemesh mayor Moshe Abutbul. Before his death, the baby was hospitalized for a week at Hadassah Hospital, Ein Karem, after suffering from a blow to the head.

Police suspect he may have been shaken by the carer at the day center he attended and that he may have died as a result of negligence.

The carer, who was put under house arrest last week but released two days ago, on condition she keeps away from the day center, denies any connection to the tragedy.

During her initial investigation, she reportedly told police that she had changed the baby’s diaper and that he had flipped over for the first time in his life and fallen.

During a second conversation with investigators, she reportedly said: “He was accepted into the kindergarten one and a half months ago. He was a lovely child. On the day of the incident, he had a slight temperature and his father took him from the kindergarten to the doctor, who decided to send him back to the kindergarten. He went to sleep and woke up groggy.”

Yehuda Shoshan, the carer’s lawyer, said his client denied any connection to abuse. From her point of view, the child was already weak when he arrived in the morning and his father took him to the doctor. After the doctor decided he could return to the day center, the child arrived “drowsy” and when he awoke, he was on the “verge of exhaustion.” His eyes were drooping and he did not communicate with the environment.

The carer did everything she could to get a response out of him, her lawyer went on, just as one would try to get a response from someone who had lost consciousness or had fainted. When she saw that she could do nothing to help, and there was no response from the child, she called an ambulance.

The lawyer said any links between the carer’s actions and the child’s death were far from proven. “On the contrary, at present, the investigation is tending towards the fact that the child arrived in a medical state that was not good, or was born with something, with some kind of defect, or that he got sick from an illness.”

Sue Surkes contributed to this report.

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