Johannesburg – Israeli fugitive Rabbi Eliezer Berland, 78 – who is wanted in his home country for sex crimes, on Friday repeatedly yelled “I will die in prison” as he came up the stairs into the Randburg Magistrate’s Court from the holding cells below.
The rabbi, who is resisting extradition, is applying for bail.
The bail hearing was delayed because Berland’s defense attorney Themba Langa was not in court.
Later was later seen involved in an angry exchange with Berland’s followers in the passage.
When the bail hearing finally resumed, Magistrate Pravena Raghunandan asked Langa why he was late.
The defense attorney said his mandate had been unexpectedly terminated in the morning over a disagreement with his client, but the matter had since been resolved and he was ready to defend the rabbi.
Langa told the court that: “The Rabbi is constantly being denied medication and food.
Even after the court instructed that they should do the required it was not done.
He was sent to the Pretoria prison and he was denied food because no one is allowed in after 3pm”.
The defense attorney said he had raised the issue of Berland’s food on Thursday, before court adjourned.
The court had ordered that Berland be held at Kgosi Mampuru II correctional facility, where visitors could bring the rabbi food.
State Prosecutor Nerisha Naidoo told the Magistrate that she had spoken to the prison and an agreement was made that Berland would be allowed to receive kosha food from his followers and a court order had to be made.
Langa told the court that apart from not having any food, Berland was also not getting his medication in prison – situation the defense attorney said was part of the reason for the disagreement with the rabbi’s followers.
Visibly upset, Berland told the court that since his imprisonment he has not had any food.
The fugitive rabbi, who had been on the run for four years until his arrest earlier this month, said he only got to eat Friday morning when he arrived at the court.
Berland, however, complained that he had not taken his medication.
Magistrate Raghunandan adjourned the bail hearing to allow Berland time to recieve his medication.