Judge removes restrictions on rabbi accused of helping Abramovich get passport

The Porto Jewish community have criticised the public prosecutor's office for investigating Rabbi Litvak


Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich attends a signature ceremony of an initiative on the safe transportation of grain and foodstuffs from Ukrainian ports, in Istanbul, on July 22, 2022. - As a first major agreement between the warring parties since the invasion, Ukraine and Russia are expected to sign a deal in Istanbul today to free up the export of grain from Ukrainian ports. The deal has been brokered by the UN and Turkey. (Photo by OZAN KOSE / AFP) (Photo by OZAN KOSE/AFP via Getty Images)

A Lisbon court has said that the case against a Porto rabbi accused of helping Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich illegally obtain a Portuguese passport is “without factual basis”, prompting renewed outrage among the city’s Jewish community.

The Lisbon Court of Appeal has revoked two measures imposed on Rabbi Daniel Litvak in a case that the Porto community’s president, Gabriel Senderowicz, has said amounts to antisemitic persecution by the state.

As a result of last week’s appeal ruling, Rabbi Litvak no longer has to report to the police three times a week and had both his passports returned to him so that he may leave the country.

Rabbi Litvak was arrested in March this year while trying to board a flight to Israel and accused of helping Mr Abramovich illegally obtain a Portuguese passport under the Nationality Law for Sephardic Jews, and embezzling community funds received as part of applications for Portuguese passports.

The 2015 Nationality Law, which Portugal’s government has said it now intends to repeal, allows descendants of Jews expelled from Spain and Portugal to obtain Portuguese citizenship. As one of two officially recognised Jewish communities in Portugual, Porto’s Jewish community assists the government in researching and approving applicants.

Mr Litvak’s arrest earlier this year and the ongoing proceedings against him prompted fury among Porto’s Jewish community, which has stopped cooperating with the state over the approval of applicants for Portuguese citizenship. 

After Litvak's arrest community president, Mr Senderowicz said: “This is the greatest attack against a Jewish community in the 21st century, and it is being carried out against the strongest Jewish community in Europe today.”

The Court of Appeal, going beyond just revoking two measures placed on Mr Litvak, also criticised the Public Prosecutor’s Office by stressing that the harsh restrictions placed on Mr Litvak were based “on nothing”.

The Court of Appeal’s decision read: “It is said that the defendant, in the exercise of his functions, had privileged knowledge and connections in the Registry Offices, which allowed him to give priority to requests for the acquisition of nationality to Sephardic Jews. But there is not a single fact to support this conclusion, namely which officials had privileged links with the appellant and, more importantly, what such knowledge and privileges consisted of.

“There is no evidence to reach the conclusion [of the Public Prosecutor’s Office], namely that officials had privileged connections with the rabbi.

“It cannot be concluded that the appellant has committed any of the acts that are attributed to him.”

Mr Senderowicz responded to the Court of Appeal’s decision on Thursday, saying: “This case, which was presented to the world as the sale of passports by a rabbinate who acted for money, is actually a case that has been provoked by pro-Palestinian figures, and attacks Jewish Israelis, wealthy Jews, and all significant Jewish realities connected with Portugal.”

Despite his successful appeal, Mr Litvak has not been completely exonerated and awaits further legal proceedings.

Last month, the Jewish community of Porto filed a complaint to the European Public Prosecutor’s Office alleging an antisemitic conspiracy against the wealthy members of the Portuguese Jewish community.

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