Board of Deputies man accused of raping refugees

By Dan Goldberg, December 13, 2012

A prominent Jewish lawyer and refugee advocate will face court in Sydney next month on multiple charges of sexually assaulting four men.

David Bitel, 60, a former member of the executive of the New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies, was arrested last week and charged with seven offences, including rape and indecent assault on four of his male clients.

The alleged incidents took place in Sydney between 1995 and 2004, police say. He was granted strict conditional bail and ordered to appear in court on January 22. The allegations relate to four men of Nepalese, Pakistani, Indian and Bangladeshi origin.

Bitel — whose grandparents were refugees from the pogroms of Czarist Russia — was president of the Refugee Council of Australia for a decade. He has been the chairman of the Australian Refugee Foundation and has been lauded for his work on behalf of refugees.

“As Jews, I think we have a special responsibility to refugees,” he told Jewish school students in Sydney in 2003.

After his arrest last week, Bitel, who runs a legal practice with about 35 employees, applied for a suppression order to keep his identity a secret but the magistrate dismissed his application, saying: “It’s an inevitable consequence of the justice system that there can be adverse impacts on colleagues, employees, family and friends.”

Last updated: 8:45pm, December 13 2012