Sect leader ‘beat son to enact bible'

The leader of a female ultra-Orthodox sect who was arrested last week over allegations of beating her children, neglect and not reporting sibling incest, claimed this week in court that she was simply “re-enacting” a biblical legend when she tied up one of her children and beat him with a belt.

The 54-year-old mother-of-12, whose name has not been published, is the leader of a small sect of ultra-Orthodox women who swathe themselves in shawls and cover their faces entirely.

Her arrest was met with disbelief by her followers, who claimed that she was a devoted mother and incapable of harming anyone.

The woman, who is regarded by her followers as a Rabbanit, refused to speak at the court in Jerusalem on Sunday until all the men in the courtroom had left. During the previous hearing, held before a male judge, she had spoken through her lawyer.

This time the hearing was held before Justice Hagit Mack-Kalamanovich, who presided over an all-female audience of police officers, lawyers and reporters.

The police investigator, Sergeant Hagit Nusseri, brought new evidence to the court, claiming that the mother tied her smaller children to a post in the house and beat them with belts. “The children asked me to re-enact a biblical legend,” she explained, “in which Batsheva tied Solomon to a post and whipped him.”

Evidence was also brought over the allegations of incest, the investigator explaining that “when the children have no-one to help them and no-one to report to, all they have left is to find comfort in the arms of each other”.

One of the older sons of the accused has also been arrested on suspicion of sexually molesting one of his sisters.

She, in turn, has been accused of forcing one of her children, a mentally handicapped boy aged 16, to stay outside the house overnight, in his underwear and barefoot.

Her arrest was extended for three days to allow the police to complete their investigations and she is expected to be released to house arrest at the end of the week on the condition that she does not contact any family members.

    Last updated: 12:58pm, June 4 2008