Edited by TJVNews.com
It appears that yet once again, the extremist Lev Tahor cult is dominating the headlines. It has been reported that a Guatemalan court last week approved the extradition of the group’s leader Yaakov Weingarten and his brother Shmuel Weingarten to the US to stand trial on charges of kidnapping and abuse of children.
An extradition order for a third brother, Yoel Weingarten, is expected to be approved in the coming days, according to a report on the YWN web site.
In April this year the men were charged by the US attorney for the Southern District of New York for the kidnapping of a 14-year old girl and for smuggling her across the US-Mexico border to reunite her with her adult husband, as was reported by the JPost.
In March, Yaakov Weingarten was arrested during a police raid on the Lev Tahor compound in Guatemala on the first day of Pesach after attempting to kidnap children on Shabbos; a tactic used by the cult to thwart the parents from pursuing them, as was reported by YWN.
According Guatemalan media, the court has verified that there are currently no legal proceedings against the Weingarten brothers and that the Guatemalan Foreign Ministry is therefore authorized to begin extradition proceedings, according to the JPost report.
The same report also indicated that the brothers intend to appeal the decision, with an attorney for the two describing the legal process against them as “persecution.”
YWN reported that according to the US Department of Justice, Lev Tahor leaders not only engaged in kidnapping but “embraced several extreme practices, including invasive monitoring of members, frequent beatings, and forced marriages of minors to adult members. Children in Lev Tahor are often subject to physical, sexual, and emotional abuse.”
Also in April, it was reported that FBI assistant director William F. Sweeney Jr said, “We are grateful for the excellent cooperation from our partners in Mexico and Guatemala who helped us hold these leaders of Lev Tahor accountable for their behavior.”
He added that, “International borders will not stop the FBI from pursuing justice and enforcing violations of our laws, especially when you target children. The behavior alleged today is outrageous, and there is no justification for it whatsoever.”
In order to circumvent the law, it has been reported that the Lev Tahor cult has recently tried to move to Iran on several occasions, but have been unsuccessful so far, according to the JPost report.
Relatives in Israel of children in the group have lobbied Israeli authorities to help prevent the group reaching Iran, where it would be harder to extract children from the cult.
The group numbers some 250 people, around 100 are adults and 150 are children, many of whom are Israeli citizens.