Haredi Website's Attorneys Say Arrests Are Police Retaliation
Lawyers representing the CEO of the website Behadrei Haredim accused the police of starting an investigation and filing charges of extortion and blackmail against the CEO and four other website employees in response to the website’s attacks, now illegal, against Jerusalem district police commander, Nisso Shaham, and his predecessor, Aryeh Amit, especially posting photoshopped pictures of Shaham wearing an SS uniform. Police – who claim to have extensive evidence of extortion committed by the websites executives against haredi public figures, rabbis and politicians – rejected the attorneys' claims.
Lawyers for Haredi website owner: Our client was arrested for posts made about police officials
Police are dismissing claims that the arrest was made following a post of a senior police official in an SS uniform, as ‘ugly, false speculation.’
By Oz Rosenberg • Ha’aretz
Lawyers representing the CEO of the website, “Behadrei Haredim,” accused the police of starting an investigation and filing charges as a result of the website’s attacks against Jerusalem district police commander, Nisso Shaham, and his predecessor, Aryeh Amit. The lawyers claim that recent police actions are in response to pictures posted of Shaham wearing an SS uniform.
Lead detective on the case, Ronen Mizrahi, commented on the claims during a hearing held on Wednesday, meant to extend the remand of the CEO. Mizrahi called the claims “ugly, false speculation.”
Mizrahi added that charges include ten documented cases of extortion, and two cases have recently been added to the investigation, one of which concerns the extortion of a person living abroad.
“The investigation will continue for a long time to come,” said the lead detective. Pointing to a disk, he explained, “There are thousands of sources of information on this disk taken from the cellular phone of the suspect, including phone numbers and text messages.”
A hearing to extend the CEO’s remand took place last week as well. During that hearing, a police representative summarized the claims made against the CEO. “The suspect turned ‘Behadrei Haredim’ into an extortion machine, meant to reap hundreds of thousands of shekels from the Haredi community, accumulating into millions over the last two years,” said the representative.
Police suspect that website staff posted incriminating messages to the website’s forums, under the guise of regular users, and then extorted the victims. Users would contact the website with requests to remove slanderous or incriminating posts - some of which posted by website staff – and then be required to pay exorbitant sums for the removal of posts.
The CEO, vice-president of sales, and two content editors were arrested. Police sources have stated that more arrests are expected to take palace.
Yaakov Izak, communications advisor to Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, considered a close associate of the arrested CEO was questioned last week.
Former Shas party chairman, Aryeh Deri, also offered testimony to the investigation during the last few days. The meeting was called to discuss Deri’s threats to sue the website for things written about him regarding an inter-Haredi political debate concerning conversions performed by the military rabbinate.
And the Times of Israel notes:
…Requesting the man be remanded for 10 additional days, police told the court that the case has crossed borders, expanding beyond Israel and involving the larger Jewish world.
There is reason to believe the man’s release will endanger the ongoing investigation, since the display and lack-of-display of content related to the blackmail is controlled by him, a police representative explained.
The court ruled to have him held for five more days.
The CEO of the popular ultra-Orthodox news site “Behadrei Haredim” is still being held in custody, while others who had initially been arrested with him have since been released. His name is still under a publication ban.
Nissan Shaham, Jerusalem district police chief, called the case the worst blackmail case he has ever witnessed, saying the people in charge extracted millions of shekels from people in the ultra-Orthodox world.…