Israel: Modesty patrol 'mercenary' gets 4 years for assaulting woman

A mercenary for ultra-Orthodox modesty patrols was sentenced to four years in jail in a plea bargain Sunday, for the aggravated assault and intimidation of a formerly Haredi woman.

This appears to be the first conviction of a person connected to a modesty patrol, even though these organizations have been linked to numerous acts of violence over the years, mostly in cities with large ultra-Orthodox populations like Jerusalem and Bnei Brak.

Even though the Jerusalem District Court described the assailants as an "armed militia," Elhanan Buzaglo, 29, was the only defendant who attacked M. nine months ago in her apartment in Jerusalem's Ma'alot Dafna neighborhood.

As reported in Haaretz last October, a series of flaws in the investigation, including a problem with the recording device, enabled Buzaglo's dispatchers - the modesty patrol members - to evade indictments.

One night last June, Buzaglo and four other men broke into M.'s apartment and beat her to the point where she required medical treatment. Buzaglo was convicted of receiving $2,000 to attack M. and intimidate her into leaving her apartment, which is in a predominantly Haredi neighborhood.

The modesty patrols said that after M. divorced her husband, she stopped maintaining an ultra-Orthodox lifestyle and had relationships with men.

The conviction states that Buzaglo and the other assailants questioned the woman about her relations with men and told her that if she did not leave the apartment, that assault "was just the beginning."

Judge Noam Solberg wrote in his decision that Buzaglo was "hired to beat and abuse, to curse and threaten, to humiliate and brutalize," and that "the punishment must reflect the abhorrence of his acts, [and] compensate for the evil harm to the body and spirit of the plaintiff, and deter him and others like him."

However,the judge also said that Buzaglo deserves mercy because of his family, because he expressed regret for his actions, and because he, as someone who used to be ultra-Orthodox, was also victimized by the modesty patrols.

M. told Haaretz that "since the incident my life has been ruined, but I am pleased by the sentencing. Finally one of them is being punished, and I hope that he will think about his actions every day in prison. I wish they would catch those who sent him, but I hope this will at least teach them something."

by Yair Ettinger

17 Mar 09

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