Associates of Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto said on Tuesday evening that the rabbi would be departing the United States and returning to Israel, where he is due to stand trial for corruption.
Rabbi Pinto was supposed to return to Israel on Monday, but he did not board the plane to return from New York to Israel, with his followers claiming he collapsed at the door of the El Al plane – marking the second time he’s collapsed on his way to trial.
The followers on Tuesday evening said the rabbi intends to return to Israel “to respect the court’s decision, as he has done with past court decisions.”
Sources close to Rabbi Pinto noted, “The rabbi’s health is still not good. The rabbi remained in his New York residence recently to treat his illness. We pray that his health will not deteriorate further, due to the termination of the medical procedures that were started in the hospital where he was treated so far.”
Just this April Pinto, who heads the Shuva Yisrael sect, flew from New York to Israel in accordance with a District Court order to stand trial in a high profile bribery case. However, he apparently suffered a heart attack on the plane and was brought directly to the hospital before returning to New York for medical treatment.
Pinto’s followers say he suffers from cancer, that he underwent several surgeries causing him to lose 30 kilograms (66 pounds), and that he has been greatly weakened as a result.
They claim that Pinto, his family and those accompanying him, completed the entire process of getting on the plane, including check in, the security check, and checking in luggage, and that several family members had already taken their seats when he collapsed.
Pinto’s lawyers transferred an announcement and relevant medical documents from the hospital to the Supreme Court in Israel.
Pinto signed a plea bargain agreement last year that attributes to him crimes of bribery, attempted bribery and disruption of proceedings. The State Attorney’s Office was expected to demand a one year prison sentence against the controversial rabbi.
As part of the plea agreement, Pinto would serve as a state witness against former police officer Maj. Gen. Menashe Arbiv, who is to be investigated on suspicion of receiving benefits from Pinto.
Despite admitting to involvement in the crimes, Pinto himself has been highly vocal over his innocence, claiming in hyperbolic statements to his followers that the verdict has “stabbed them with a million knives,” claiming he is “the most persecuted in this generation,” and blaming the corruption scandal on “satan.”
The statements were later found to be violations of the plea deal, causing three of his most high-profile attorneys to quit the complex case last October.