Rabbi Sharon Brous being arrested July 18 in the Russell Senate Office Building. Photo courtesy of Sharon Brous

L.A. rabbi arrested in Washington for protesting health care bill


Rabbi Sharon Brous of the Los Angeles congregation IKAR was arrested July 18 with about a dozen other faith leaders outside the Washington, D.C., office of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) while protesting Republican efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

Brous and the other clergy members were arrested for refusing police orders to disperse, according to United States Capitol Police. They were singing, praying and giving speeches before they were arrested, Brous said.

“I did find it to be ironic that it is illegal to stand in the hallway of the Senate building and it’s not illegal to plot how to make cancer patients lose their chemotherapy,” Brous told the Journal in a phone interview.

Brous said she traveled to the nation’s capital to protest Republican health care legislation because she felt obligated as a person of faith, but also because both of her parents are cancer survivors and another close relative is fighting cancer, and she believes proposed bills would deny vital services to cancer patients and others facing grave illnesses.

The most recent Congressional Budget Office review of Republican health care legislation estimated that the Obamacare Repeal Reconciliation Act of 2017 would result in 32 million people losing health care. As Senate majority leader, McConnell is responsible for steering Republican efforts to pass the legislation.

“As people of faith, we are called to operate in a way that is just and right and compassionate in all cases, but we’re asked to have special care for the most vulnerable,” Brous said. “And this does exactly the opposite.”

Brous said the protest was organized by members of the interfaith Auburn Senior Fellows program, including the Rev. William Barber II of Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro, N.C., and Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of Network, a Catholic social justice lobby.

Among those also arrested was Rabbi Alana Suskin of Americans for Peace Now, a group that opposes Israeli military control of Gaza and the West Bank.

Brous said there will be more demonstrations if Republicans persist with their efforts. The July 18 arrests came as one of several waves of protest. At least 11 faith leaders were arrested five days earlier, also in front of McConnell’s office.

“You call yourself religious people and you put your hands on a Bible when you swear the oath of office,” she said of Republican lawmakers. “And you’re undermining everything that we as people of faith hold to be true.”

She and the other protesters arrested with her were released the same day after paying a $50 fine, according to Capitol Police.

Oak Loeb, a protester with IfNotNow, is arrested at the Century City office of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee on March 17.

WATCH: Seven Jewish protesters arrested at AIPAC L.A. office


Seven Jewish protesters were arrested March 17 in the lobby of the Century City office tower that houses the Los Angeles office of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

The protesters, who were affiliated with IfNotNow, a progressive network of millennial Jews opposed to Israeli policy, were chanting and stomping their feet when they were arrested on suspicion of trespassing, according to Capt. Tina Nieto, area commanding officer for West L.A. for the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD).

“We are here to say that we’ll occupy this building until AIPAC is ready to stop supporting the endless occupation in Israel-Palestine,” said Michal David, 26, an organizer for IfNotNow, while a small group of protesters marched in a circle and chanted on the sidewalk behind her.

According to David, the protesters arrived at 9 a.m. at the building and blocked off entrances for about 40 minutes, encouraging AIPAC employees to go home, “for a day of reflection.” By 10 a.m., those who were not prepared to be arrested had moved to the sidewalk.

“Shabbat shalom! AIPAC go home!” the seven protesters chanted inside, seated against a marble wall facing the entrance.

Outside, the protesters, who numbered fewer than 10, responded with chants and statements of their own, denouncing AIPAC’s role in “propping up military occupation” and “cozying up to David Friedman,” President Donald Trump’s controversial pick for ambassador to Israel.

David said they had not contacted AIPAC before the protest. “There’s no more room for conversations behind closed doors,” she said.

More than a dozen uniformed LAPD officers and six police cruisers were on hand for the arrests. Nieto said the building’s management called in a private person’s arrest, also known as a citizen’s arrest.

The activists inside the lobby continued chanting until police led them away in handcuffs around 11 a.m., while the protesters outside continued to sing and look on. From there, they were taken to LAPD’s West L.A. Community Police Station, where anybody without an outstanding warrant would be cited and released, Nieto said.

The protesters ranged in age from 20 to 31 and hailed from L.A. and the Bay Area, according to IfNotNow.

On Sunday, IfNotNow is planning another, larger protest at AIPAC’s Century City office, to coincide with the L.A. Marathon, whose route passes AIPAC’s office.

AIPAC declined to comment for this story.

Shia LaBeouf arrested at New York performance of ‘Cabaret’


Actor Shia LaBeouf, who starred in the “Transformers” movies and the play “Nymphomaniac,” was arrested inside New York's Studio 54 during a performance of “Cabaret,” police said.

The actor was charged with criminal conduct and disorderly conduct and taken into custody, NYPD detective Brian Sessa said.

LaBeouf was escorted out of the theater by police after refusing to go when asked to do so by security guards, said NYPD spokesman George Tsourovakas.

The 28-year-old actor, who gave police a Los Angeles address, began making a disturbance and then used obscene language and became belligerent after security guards asked him to leave, Tsourovakas said.

“He was being rather difficult and combative, verbally … to the point where security guards asked him to please leave the premises and he refused,” Tsourovakas said. “Police were called and he was detained and arrested.”

Charged with disorderly conduct, harassment

LaBeouf, 28, was arraigned on five charges in the tiny, packed courtroom at Manhattan's Midtown Community Court after being arrested on Thursday evening.

He was charged with two counts of disorderly conduct, one count of trespass, one count of criminal trespass and harassment in the second degree.

As the disheveled-looking actor left the court alone wearing a bright blue T-shirt and baggy pants he was mobbed by waiting photographers and reporters.

Suspected Brussels Jewish museum shooter arrested in France


Police in Marseille arrested a man whom Belgian police suspect killed four people at the Jewish Museum of Belgium.

The man, aged 29 and identified as Mehdi Nemmouche, was arrested at Marseille’s main train and bus station, Saint-Charles, on May 29 and is currently being held on suspicion of terrorist activity, the news agency AFP reported. He lives in Roubaix, which is located on the border between France and Belgium, 55 miles south of Brussels. He arrived in Marseille aboard a bus that left from Amsterdam via Brussels. The report did not say where he boarded the bus.

The weapons found in the man’s luggage “were arms of the same type used on May 24 in Brussels,” an unnamed source told AFP.

A spokesperson for the Belgian federal police said the man is suspected of killing four people on May 24 at the Jewish Museum of Belgium in central Brussels.

Nemmouche also carried a small, portable video camera and a baseball cap similar to the one that is believed to have been worn by the perpetrator of the Brussels Jewish museum shooting, according to AFP.

Questioned by French police about the content of the digital camera after his arrest in Marseille, Nemmouche is reported to have said, “It’s a shame my camera didn’t work when all the action happened,” according to BFMTV, a Belgian broadcaster.

The Brussels Jewish museum shooter used what looked like an assault rifle to kill two tourists, Emanuel and Mira Riva, a man and his wife from Israel, and a handgun to kill two staffers, Alexandre Strens and Dominique Sabrier. He then fled the scene on foot. According to some reports, he wore a video camera.

French President Francois Hollande congratulated law enforcement officers for the capture.

“I wish to salute the customs officers, the police officers, for performing the arrest,” French media quoted Hollande as saying in a statement Sunday. “We are determined to follow those jihadists and prevent them from causing harm upon returning from a battle that is neither theirs nor ours. We have fought them, we are fighting them and we will fight them.”

“We are very satisfied with the work of the French authorities in finding the perpetrator of the cold-blooded murders last week,” European Jewish Congress President Moshe Kantor said in a statement Sunday. “However, for too long authorities in Europe have acted speedily after the fact, it is now time for all to turn attention and set as the highest priority the prevention of these vicious crimes.”

The man arrested in Marseille, one of the sources told AFP, is believed to have participated in the civil war in Syria in 2013 as a jihadist.

He is being held on suspicion of murder and attempted murder, AFP reported.

Belgian police had briefly detained at least two men whom media reported had been interrogated about the shooting and released as part of a massive manhunt launched in Belgium.

According to TF1, a French television broadcaster, Nemmouche was stopped by customs officers performing routine checks. He declined to open his bag, leading the customs officers to evacuate the bus and check the contents of every bag aboard.

It was during that inspection that the customs officers found the weapons and the camera.

Nemmouche may have traveled to Marseille with the intention of boarding a boat to North Africa, TF1 reported.

Nemmouche became a radical jihadist while serving a sentence in France in 2009 for armed robbery, TF1 reported. He left France for Belgium in 2012 and from there traveled to Syria.

Nemmouche had spent a total of five years in prison from late 2007 to December of 2012, and had visited the United Kingdom; Lebanon; Turkey and Syria after his release. He returned to Europe in March 2014, BFMTV reported Sunday.

Al-Qaeda cell arrested in plot to attack U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv


An al-Qaeda cell suspected of planning several terror attacks in Israel, including on the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, was arrested.

A gag order on the three arrests made several weeks ago by Israel’s Shin Bet security service was lifted Wednesday by the Jerusalem Magistrate Court.

Two of the alleged terrorists are from the West Bank; the third is from eastern Jerusalem. They reportedly were planning at least two major attacks, including a suicide bombing and a truck bombing. The other target was the International Convention Center in Jerusalem.

According to reports, the cell also considered bombing a Jerusalem-area bus and kidnapping a soldier in Jerusalem. One of the terrorists reportedly received computer files containing virtual training courses on bomb manufacturing.

The cell’s operator was based in Gaza and reportedly received his orders directly from al-Qaeda leader Ayman Zawahiri.

The Shin Bet said that the men were recruited and received their orders on Skype and Facebook. None of the suspects had a previous record of terrorist activities.

Accused as sex-abuser, Mendel Tevel appears in L.A. court


On Thursday afternoon, Oct. 31, Mendel Tevel appeared in a Los Angeles Superior Court for the first time since his arrest two days earlier by Beverly Hills police acting on a warrant issued by the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office. Tevel, a rabbi and youth worker, is accused of 11 counts of alleged sexual abuse in New York.

Handcuffed, wearing a standard blue jail suit and standing behind glass in a sealed-off section of a downtown courtroom, Tevel listened without expression as Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Shelly Torrealba verified that he had signed a form waiving his right to oppose his extradition to the State of New York. His lawyer confirmed Tevel’s signed consent, giving New York law enforcement officials until Dec. 2 to retrieve Tevel from the custody of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

Tevel’s attorney, Dana Cole, asked the judge if the court would consider granting bail to Tevel based on two factors: Concern that it would be difficult for Tevel to maintain a healthy weight in county jail while observing strict kosher dietary restrictions, and the fact that Tevel has a clean record in California.

“Because of his very rigorous dietary restrictions it would be very difficult for him to maintain weight [and] health in county [jail],” Cole said.

Torrealba turned down the request, saying, “You’re not entitled to bail, and because of the very violent and serious nature of these offenses, it does appear that no bail is the most appropriate way to make sure that you get back to the state of New York to face these charges.”

Members of Tevel’s family were in the courtroom, including his wife, Bracha, and her father and Tevel’s father-in-law, Rabbi Hertzel Illulian, the founder and director of the JEM youth center in Beverly Hills, a Jewish community center where Tevel worked—and where police arrested him on the afternoon of Oct. 29.

Tevel is expected to be charged, pending his extradition to New York, with three counts of criminal sexual acts in the first degree, five counts of criminal sexual acts in the third degree and three counts of sexual abuse in the first degree.

In an article in the Jewish Journal in August, four men alleged that they had been victims of Tevel as minors (ranging from ages 6 to 14 at the time of the alleged abuse).

They claimed Tevel performed acts that included spanking on bare skin, as well as sexually suggestive rubbing. The instances described by those who spoke with the Journal took place as early as around 1995 and as recently as around 2004.

On Oct. 30, one of those alleged victims, a Brooklyn resident, told the Journal, “I would like to see him going away forever.”

Because the indictment remains sealed, whether those charges include the four men who made accusations against him to the Journal is unclear.

Tevel is believed to have moved to Los Angeles in 2012, shortly after his marriage.

Lt. Lincoln Hoshino of the Beverly Hills Police Department said that when the department investigated Tevel in August, detectives concluded there had been “no complaints” of any criminal or inappropriate sexual acts with students at the JEM center.

Illulian would not comment when contacted in August, and did not respond to multiple calls this week to his cell phone. He also declined to speak with the Journal in court.

In an interview earlier in the week, Illulian told KABC-TV, “God will help that it will show that it’s all false and will clear up, and people will see while we [JEM] will still continue our good job for the community,”

Outside of the courthouse after the hearing, attorney Cole spoke with the media, saying Tevel is “anxious to go back to New York and start the process” he hopes will “clear his name.”

Tevel “absolutely denies the allegations—he believes that they are fabricated,” Cole said.

When asked why he raised the issue of kosher dietary restrictions when the county jail is known to provide kosher food, Cole responded, “They do provide kosher food, but Los Angeles county jail is a miserable environment. It’s very difficult for a very religious person with strict dietary restrictions to really survive there.

“He’ll have to do the best he can,” Cole said.

Israel convicts six Arab citizens in Jewish gunman’s killing


An Israeli court convicted six Arab citizens on Monday in connection with the mob killing in 2005 of a Jewish gunman after he went on a lethal shooting rampage on a bus in their town.

While none of the men was found guilty of directly causing the death of Eden Nathan-Zaada, a 19-year-old army deserter and far-right West Bank settler, some members of Israel's Arab minority deplored the verdict as a sign of discrimination.

Wearing a military uniform and Jewish skullcap, Nathan-Zaada opened fire aboard a bus in the northern town of Shfaram, killing four Arabs. Twenty-two people, all but seven of them Arabs, were wounded.

Enraged residents of the largely Arab populated town killed Nathan-Zaada at the scene, as police tried to intervene. Security officials said later the gunman had apparently hoped to trigger sectarian violence to try and derail Israel's Gaza Strip withdrawal, which went ahead weeks later.

Haifa District Court convicted four Shfaram men of attempted manslaughter, two others of serious aggravated assault and a seventh of assault and obstruction of a police officer.

Defense lawyer Siry Khourieh said “the indictments in my opinion should have never been presented,” having argued in court the men had acted in self-Defense, and that Israeli Jews were seldom prosecuted for killing assailants at the scene of an incident.

The court found for the prosecution, that the soldier had already been subdued, disarmed and handcuffed by police after his shooting spree, when a mob set upon him, stomping on and stoning him to death.

Kamal Shehadin, deputy mayor of Shfaram, among a few dozen protesters outside the court, said his constituents “feel discriminated against.”

“Four people were murdered in cold blood and the court comes to judge these men, who if they hadn't defended themselves, more blood could have been spilled,” Shehadin said.

The six defendants convicted of the worst offences face a maximum penalties of 14 years' imprisonment. Their attorney, Khourieh, said he expected far lighter sentences at a hearing scheduled for November.

“We have no end of mitigating circumstances here,” Khourieh told Reuters.

Israeli Arabs make up about a fifth of Israel's mostly Jewish population. Many are descended from Palestinians who fled or were driven away in a war over Israel's founding in 1948.

Writing by Dan Williams and Allyn Fisher-Ilan; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky

Boston bomb suspect identified, no arrest


BREAKING NEWS — UPDATES HERE

[UPDATE: 12 p.m.] “Contrary to widespread reporting, there have been no arrests made in connection with the Boston Marathon attack,” the FBI said in a statement.  “Over the past day and a half, there have been a number of press reports based on information from unofficial sources that has been inaccurate.  Since these stories often have unintended consequences, we ask the media, particularly at this early stage of the investigation, to exercise caution and attempt to verify information through appropriate official channels before reporting.”

[UPDATE: 11:43 a.m.] Boston Police, U.S. attorney in Boston say no arrest made in investigation of Boston Marathon bombing.

[11:29 a.m.] There have been no arrests made yet in the bombings at the Boston Marathon that left three people dead and scores injured, U.S. government and law enforcement sources said on Wednesday.

One of the sources said there was no one in custody either.

[11:00 am] Authorities have arrested a suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings based on security video that showed a man depositing a bag at the scene before the blasts, CNN reported on Wednesday, citing U.S. and Boston law enforcement sources.

A U.S. law enforcement source told Reuters that a suspect had been identified and that a formal announcement would be made later in the day.

The developments are the biggest publicly-disclosed breaks since Monday's blast at the marathon finish line killed three people and injured 176 others. Investigators were searching through thousands of pieces of evidence from cell phone pictures to shrapnel shards pulled from victims' legs.

Based on shards of metal, fabric, wires and a battery recovered at the scene, the focus turned to whoever may have made bombs in pressure cooker pots and taken them in heavy black nylon bags to the finish line of the world-famous race watched by crowds of spectators.

A stretch of Boston's Boylston Street almost a mile long and blocks around it remained closed as investigators searched for clues in the worst attack on U.S. soil since the hijacked plane strikes of Sept. 11, 2001.

Cities across the United States were on edge after Monday's blasts in Boston. Adding to the nervousness was the announcement that mail containing a suspicious substance addressed to a lawmaker and to President Barack Obama. The FBI said, however, that agents had found no link the attack in Boston.

The blasts at the finish line of Monday's race injured 176 people and killed three: an 8-year old boy, Martin Richard, a 29-year-old woman, Krystle Campbell and a Boston University graduate student who was a Chinese citizen.

Boston University identified the student as Lu Lingzi.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack.

“Whether it's homegrown, or foreign, we just don't know yet. And so I'm not going to contribute to any speculation on that,” said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who until January was Massachusetts' senior senator. “It's just hard to believe that a Patriots' Day holiday, which is normally such time of festivities, turned into bloody mayhem.”

FBI ASKS WITNESSES FOR PHOTOS

The FBI was leading the investigation and asking witnesses to submit any photos of the blast site — which was crowded with tens of thousands of spectators, race staff and volunteers and runners. Many of them have turned in thousands of images, authorities said.

“Probably one of the best ways to get a lead is to go through those images and track down people coming and going with backpacks,” said Randy Law, an associate professor of history at Birmingham-Southern College in Alabama and author of “Terrorism: A History.”

“It's the needle in the haystack but when you have the resources that the local and federal authorities have, they can go through what I'm sure will be thousands and thousands of photos and hours of videos. You can find something occasionally,” Law said.

The head of trauma surgery at Boston Medical Center, which was still treating 19 victims on Wednesday, said his hospital was collecting the shards of metal, plastic, wood and concrete they had pulled from the injured to save for law enforcement inspectors. Other hospitals were doing the same.

“We've taken on large quantities of pieces,” Dr. Peter Burke of Boston Medical Center told reporters “We send them to the pathologists and they are available to the police.”

NYLON FRAGMENTS, BALL BEARINGS AND NAILS

Bomb scene pictures produced by the Boston Joint Terrorism Task Force and released on Tuesday show the remains of an explosive device including twisted pieces of a metal container, wires, a battery and what appears to be a small circuit board.

One picture shows a few inches of charred wire attached to a small box, and another depicts a half-inch (1.3 cm) nail and a zipper head stained with blood. Another shows a Tenergy-brand battery attached to black and red wires through a broken plastic cap. Several photos show a twisted metal lid with bolts.

The nickel metal hydride battery typically is used by remote-controlled car enthusiasts, said Benjamin Mull, a vice president at Tenergy Corp. The batteries, made in Shenzhen, China, are sold on the internet and in hundreds of outlets.

People at the company “were shocked and appalled” when they learned their battery had been used in the blast, he said.

Security officials who spoke on condition of anonymity said instructions for building pressure-cooker bombs similar to the ones used in Boston can be found on the Internet and are relatively primitive.

Pressure cookers had also been discovered in numerous foiled attack plots in both the U.S. and overseas in recent years, including the failed Times Square bombing attempt on May 1, 2010, the officials said. Additional reporting by Mark Hosenball in Washington, Svea Herbst-Bayliss in Boston and Terril Yue Jones in Beijing; Editing by Daniel Trotta and Grant McCool

Women of the Wall Megillah reading undisturbed by Israeli police


A women’s Megillah reading at the Western Wall took place on Shushan Purim without incident or arrests.

Approximately 80 women turned out, some donning prayer shawls, others dressed as police and haredi Orthodox worshipers, on Monday morning in Jerusalem, the TImes of Israel reported.

Hallel Silverman, the 17-year-old niece of American comedian Sarah Silverman, who was arrested two weeks ago during rosh chodesh morning services for the Hebrew month of Adar, participated in the Megillah reading dressed in striped prison garb with two of her younger siblings dressed as police officers leading her by handcuffs.

Israeli police have made nearly monthly arrests related to dress code violations since June related to the Women of the Wall's monthly rosh chodesh service.

In 2003, Israel's Supreme Court upheld a government ban on women wearing tefillin or tallit, prayer shawls, or reading from a Torah scroll at the Wall.

Earlier in February, 10 women were arrested for praying with prayer shawls at the Wall as they celebrated the new Jewish month of Adar. Haaretz reported that the arrests took place after the services had concluded, which police had been observing.

Meanwhile, the Israeli nonprofit Learn & Live, established in 2009 to help at-risk youth, ran a Purim patrol on Sunday night assisting young women who were in distress because of drunkenness and brought them to one of two safe places in Jerusalem.

Anat Kamm wants compensation from Haaretz for revealing identity


Anat Kamm, who was jailed for turning classified military documents over to a reporter, is seeking compensation from Haaretz for revealing her identity.

Kamm, a former Israeli soldier, is asking the newspaper for more than $540,000, according to Haaretz.

“Kamm views you and some of the newspaper’s employees as directly responsible, or indirectly, for revealing [her] as the source,” Kamm's lawyer, Ilan Bombach, wrote to Haaretz publisher Amos Schocken more than a week ago, the newspaper reported on Monday. “This exposure caused my client enormous damage.”

Haaretz attorneys said that Kamm's claims “have no real basis.”

Kamm charges that her house arrest and jail time cut short her career as a journalist and her academic studies.

Her lawyer said that if she does not get the money from Haaretz, she will sue.

Kamm was convicted in February of collecting, holding and passing on classified information without authorization. She had been charged originally with espionage, but the charge was dropped as part of a plea bargain. Kamm was arrested in late 2009 or early 2010.

Kamm admitted to stealing about 2,000 documents, hundreds identified as classified or top secret, which she downloaded to two discs, while serving her mandatory military service in the Israeli army in the Central Command. She gave the information to Haaretz reporter Uri Blau, who wrote stories based on the information that were approved by the military censor. The stories led to a search for Blau's source.

Following her military service, Kamm was a media reporter for Walla, an online news site that at the time was partly owned by Haaretz.

Man arrested in connection with Wilshire Boulevard Temple bomb threats


The man arrested in connection with fake bomb threats made against a Los Angeles synagogue was also charged with vandalizing it earlier this month.

Several bomb threats against the Wilshire Boulevard Temple were called in to the Los Angeles Police Department Tuesday morning. One call said that there was a bomb planted in a car at an intersection near the synagogue.

Police investigated the threats and blew up a suspicious package left in a car adjacent to the synagogue, but the package was found not to contain explosives.

Wan Ryung Song, also known as Patrick Song, 46, was arrested later on Tuesday. Song is a naturalized U.S. citizen from South Korea.

[RELATED: Wilshire Boulevard Temple target of bomb threats]

Song was charged with four counts of making a bomb threat, one count of vandalism at a house of worship and one count of a hate crime, according to the LA Times. His arrest was based largely on video footage from the synagogue's surveillance cameras. He reportedly made all the bomb threat calls to police from the same pay phone located near the synagogue.

The synagogue, known as the oldest in Los Angeles, was vandalized on Dec. 6 with a swastika and anti-Semitic graffiti.

Anat Hoffman’s arrest at Western Wall galvanizing liberal Jewish groups


Last week’s episode was hardly the first time Israeli police stopped activist Anat Hoffman while she was leading a women’s prayer service at the Western Wall in violation of Israeli law.

But this time, police actually arrested Hoffman — a first, she says — and the incident appears to be galvanizing liberal Jewish groups in the United States and Israel.

In the United States, the Union for Reform Judaism called for a police investigation and expressed its dismay to Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador in Washington. The United Synagogue for Conservative Judaism announced a global “Shema flash mob” for Monday — a nod to the prayer Hoffman was reciting when she was arrested.

In Israel, the Israel Religious Action Center, which Hoffman leads, launched a petition to the Supreme Court requesting that the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, which runs the holy site also known as the Kotel, change its decision-making process to include non-Orthodox Jews.

“There is no voice around that table for women, for the paratroopers who liberated the Wall, for the variety of pluralist voices,” Hoffman, who is also chairwoman of Women of the Wall, told JTA. “We want to dismantle this body. If the Wall belongs to the Jewish people, where are the Reform, Conservative, secular?”

For now, however, there is no grand coordinated strategy to challenge the laws governing Israel’s holy site, which bar women from praying while wearing a tallit prayer shawl or tefillin, or from reading aloud from the Torah. In a 2003 Israeli Supreme Court decision, those rules were upheld on the ground that “local custom” at the Wall did not allow for such practices.

So with Women of the Wall intent on continuing its practice of organizing a women’s prayer service at the site every Rosh Chodesh — the beginning of the Hebrew month — another incident likely is not far off.

Hoffman’s arrest during last week’s Rosh Chodesh service on the evening of Oct. 16 garnered more attention than previous incidents in which Hoffman was detained but not arrested. Hadassah, which was holding its centennial celebrations in Jerusalem, had sent some 200 women to pray with Hoffman, giving a significant boost in numbers to the service, which totaled about 250 women.

After Hoffman was arrested, she claims Israeli police chained her legs and dragged her across the floor of a police station, leaving bruises. She also claims that police ordered her to strip naked, and that she spent the night in a cell without a bed. She was released the following morning after agreeing to stay away from the Kotel for 30 days.

Israeli police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld said Hoffman’s claims about her treatment are “not accurate and not right.”

As the incident received wide coverage in the American Jewish media, the condemnations of Hoffman’s arrest poured in, particularly from women’s groups such as the Women’s Rabbinic Network and the National Council for Jewish Women. Hadassah’s national president, Marcie Natan, told JTA that Hadassah “strongly supports the right of women to pray at the Wall.”

Yizhar Hess, executive director of Israel’s Conservative movement, said that if Hoffman actually is charged with a crime, it would force a reexamination of the rules governing the Western Wall.

“It’s not an easy experience to be accused in criminal law, but it will take this debate to a different phase: What can be done and what cannot be done in the Western Wall plaza,” Hess said.

Hoffman says she wants the courts to allow her group to pray for one hour per month at the Wall, and ideally wants the Wall’s council to allocate some time for prayers without mechitzah — the divider that separates men and women. She sees an opening in the Supreme Court’s reliance on “local custom” as the basis for upholding the current rules. The The Israel Religious Action Center's petition aims to change who defines “local custom.”

Shari Eshet, director of the National Council of Jewish Women’s Israel office, said legal initiatives are the best way to effect change on the issue.

“With all of the screaming and yelling and American Jews banging on the table, at the end of the day this is a land with a court system,” Eshet said. “We need to find another way to bring this back into the court system.”

Leaders of some religiously pluralistic American Jewish groups admit that their efforts to date on this issue have not worked. Some hope that Hoffman’s arrest will galvanize their constituents anew.

“This is a moment for us to think differently,” said Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism. He said his organization was considering an array of options and that more details would be forthcoming in a matter of weeks.

Rabbi Steven Wernick, executive vice president and CEO of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, said a new strategy is needed.

“We’ve been very reactive thus far to these circumstances when they come,” he said. “Whatever strategies that we’ve been doing previously are not enough because this issue in recent years is getting progressively more difficult and troublesome.”

In Israel, groups working for religious pluralism face a dual challenge: They are fighting legal and legislative battles on a range of issues, and most Israelis are not motivated to join the fights — especially when it comes to the Western Wall.

“Israelis view the Wall as something not relevant to day-to-day life,” Hess said. “What could have been a national symbol to connect Jews from all over the world is now only an Orthodox synagogue.”

Women of the Wall could attract more of an Israeli following if it linked its cause to other religious freedom issues, said Rabbi Uri Regev, president and CEO of the Israeli pluralism organization Hiddush. “As emotionally attractive and justified as Women of the Wall is, there are bigger and more compelling issues,” like legalizing non-Orthodox Jewish marriage in Israel or funding non-Orthodox Jewish rabbis, he said.

Hoffman says she hopes Diaspora Jews will push the issue with Israeli leaders. Wernick says he wants the Jewish Agency for Israel’s board of governors to put the issue of women praying at the Western Wall on its agenda. He also is pushing for a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about it. USCJ, however, will not press for a new Israeli law on the matter, he said.

“We’re not Israeli citizens and we respect Israel’s right to determine its own course,” Wernick said.

Hoffman says, “The Western Wall is way too important to be left to the Israelis.”

Toronto rabbi charged for alleged sexual assault after 40 years


A 71-year-old rabbi in Toronto has been charged with indecent assault for allegedly sexually assaulting a student 40 years ago.

Heshi Nussbaum appeared in court on Wednesday to face the charge, the Toronto Sun reported.

Nussbaum allegedly sexually assaulted a 12-year-old boy at a “private religious school” that he taught at and during a summer camp between 1972 and 1975, according to Toronto Police.

There also may be more victims, according to a statement issued by the Toronto Police on Friday.

Palestinian teens arrested for Jerusalem arson, shots fired inside Gaza Strip restaurant


Two Palestinian teens were arrested for setting a fire near Jerusalem that destroyed 15 acres of forest.

The teens were arrested Monday and reportedly admitting to intentionally setting the June 26 fire, as well as to setting other fires and being involved in rock-throwing incidents, Ynet reported.

Some 35 firefighting teams from across the country and six firefighting planes battled the blaze, which was ignited near Kibbutz Ma’aleh Hahamisha, as well as another near the entrance to the city.

The Jerusalem area reportedly has suffered hundreds of fires in recent weeks, and many are believed to be the result of arson.

Meanwhile, shots fired from inside the Gaza Strip damaged a restaurant at Kibbutz Yad Mordechai. The Palestinian gunmen opened fire on Monday evening, according to a statement from the Israel Defense Forces. A car also was hit by the machine-gun fire, Ynet reported.

The IDF and police patrolled the area before lowering the alert levels.

Mumbai 2008 terror suspect arrested


Indian police have apprehended a man they believe to have guided the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.

Syed Zabiuddin Ansari, who allegedly guided the terrorists move by move as they carried out the attacks, was discovered after he opened a Facebook account with his own name, according to The Associated Press. He was living in Saudi Arabia on a Pakistani passport, raising funds and recruiting for the Islamist terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba.

Among the 166 people who died in the attacks were six Jews killed at the Chabad center, including Rabbi Gavriel and Rivkah Holtzberg, who ran the center. Their son, then nearly 2 years old, was saved.

Peter Madoff taken into custody by FBI


Peter Madoff, the younger brother of jailed Ponzi scheme operator Bernard Madoff, has been taken into custody by the FBI.

Peter Madoff, 66, surrendered himself Friday morning at his lawyer’s office in midtown Manhattan ahead of an expected guilty plea to criminal charges related to the Ponzi scheme, according to the Wall Street Journal.

He is the eighth person to plead guilty to criminal charges in the government’s investigation into the collapse of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities since December 2008. Numerous Jewish foundations and individuals had invested with the firm. Among the victims were Hadassah, the American Jewish Congress and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel.

The former chief compliance officer is expected to plead guilty to falsifying the records of an investment adviser, and conspiracy to commit securities fraud, make false filings and commit other crimes. He has agreed to serve 10-year-prison term and forfeit all of his assets, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Bernard Madoff is serving a 150-year sentence in a North Carolina federal prison for crimes associated with the Ponzi scheme.

Earlier this week former Madoff money manager J. Ezra Merkin agreed to turn over $405 million to duped investors in the scheme. That was the first settlement resulting from a government action against Merkin.

Iran arrests alleged assassins of nuclear scientists


Iranian security forces have arrested the alleged assassins of thee nuclear scientists, an official state news agency reported.

The Iranian Intelligence Ministry announced the arrests in a statement Thursday, according to the Islamic Republic News Agency, Iran’s official news agency. The arrests were made “in various regions and through timely and blitz operations,” the statement said.

Details of the arrest would be made public, the statement said, “after lapse of security precaution.”

At least five nuclear scientists have been assassinated in the last two years. Iranian officials have said they believe that Israel and its Mossad intelligence agency were behind the killings.

In May, Iran executed a man convicted of spying for Israel and assassinating an Iranian nuclear scientist. Majid Jamali Fashi, 24, was sentenced to death in August 2010 for the murder of Ali Mohammadi, a particle physics professor at Tehran University killed by a remote-controlled bomb in a January 2010 attack.

In April, more than 15 Iranian and foreign nationals reportedly were arrested for carrying out alleged terrorist missions for Israel in Iran, according to IRNA. The group was accused of spying for Israel, the attempted assassination of an Iranian expert and sabotage.

Teacher arrested after Holocaust lesson goes awry


A South Carolina teacher was arrested on charges of assault and battery after trying to make a point during a lesson on the Holocaust.

Patricia Mulholland, a veteran seventh-grade social studies teacher at Bluffton Middle School, is accused of dragging a student from his seat by his collar and pushing him under a table while shouting “this is what the Nazis do to Jews.” The incident occurred last week.

The teacher said she was attempting to supplement a previous lesson on the Holocaust, The Associated Press reported Tuesday. Police reportedly have copies of videos made by some students on their cell phones of the teacher acting strangely before the incident, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Mulholland, who has been teaching in the district for 23 years, was placed on administrative leave with pay on April 26. The school district has launched an internal review.

It has not been reported whether or not the student is Jewish.

Tigers outfielder arrested after shouting anti-Semitic remarks


Detroit Tigers outfielder Delmon Young was arrested outside of a New York hotel for allegedly attacking a group of men and making anti-Semitic remarks.

Young was arrested early Friday morning outside of the Hilton in Midtown Manhattan, where he was staying before a series with the New York Yankees begins on Friday night.

According to the Associated Press, a group of tourists staying at the hotel were approached by a panhandler wearing a yarmulke. According to the New York Post, Young yelled anti-Semitic epithets at the group. Young also reportedly shoved one of the men, who sustained minor injuries.

Young faces a misdemeanor aggravated harassment hate crime charge. He was taken to the hospital after the incident, as he was believed to have been intoxicated, New York Police Department spokesman, Detective Joseph Cavitolo, told the Detroit Free Press.

He told the newspaper that it was unclear whether the alleged victim was Jewish.

Young endured a 50-game suspension in 2006 for throwing a bat at an umpire. It is unclear whether he will be allowed to play in Friday’s game.

Iran reports arrests of alleged spies for Israel


More than 15 Iranian and foreign nationals reportedly were arrested for carrying out alleged terrorist missions for Israel in Iran.

IRNA, Iran’s official news agency, reported Tuesday that the group is accused of spying for Israel, the attempted assassination of an Iranian expert and sabotage. The report did not identify the expert’s field.

The report also said that Iranian intelligence uncovered a Mossad spy base in a neighboring country, according to The Associated Press.

A statement issued by Iran’s Intelligence Ministry said that the group’s mission “was to identify and assassinate one of our nation’s experts and to bomb some of the nation’s installations using professionally made technical tools,” AFP reported.

Earlier this month, IRNA released a report saying that Iranian intelligence arrested a “Zionist regime-backed terrorist team” and promised more details at a later date.

The report did not say when the arrests took place.

Palestinian Olympic team goalie arrested for terror attack


The goalie of the Palestinian Olympic soccer team and Palestinian Red Crescent employees were among 13 West Bank residents arrested for an attack on Israeli soldiers.

The arrests in the Jan. 20 shooting attack against Israeli troops were announced Monday by the Israel Defense Forces. No injuries were incurred during the attack but a vehicle was damaged, according to the IDF.

Omar Abu Rois, 23, the goalie, is affiliated with the Hamas terror organization and works for the Red Crescent, according to the IDF. He carried out the attack with Red Crescent guard Salih Bar’al using AK-47 rifles procured by Munzar Abbas, 41,  an officer of the Palestinian “General Intelligence” in Ramallah who is responsible for security at the Red Crescent.

The IDF said the group, who all live in the Amari refugee camp near Ramallah, intended to carry out similar attacks in at least six other locations.

Strauss-Kahn held in French prositution probe


Former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn was questioned by police on Tuesday over his dealings with an alleged prostitution ring that was run from the northern French city of Lille and organised sex parties in Paris, Brussels and Washington.

Strauss-Kahn, a former finance minister seen as a strong contender for France’s 2012 presidential election until a sexual assault case in New York last May brought his ambitions to an abrupt halt, was to remain in police custody overnight and could be held until Thursday morning.

The investigation is focused on a prostitution ring that allegedly supplied clients of Lille’s luxury Carlton hotel. Police want to establish whether Strauss-Kahn knew that women at parties he attended in Paris and Washington were prostitutes.

He could be deemed free of suspicion, or may be placed under formal investigation for benefitting from misappropriated company funds if investigators conclude that he attended sex sessions with prostitutes that company executives used expense accounts to pay for.

Either way, he could face an uncomfortably timed release from custody on Thursday, with President Nicolas Sarkozy, who he once dreamed of ousting from power, due to arrive in Lille that day for a pre-planned election campaign visit.

Strauss-Kahn made no comment to a crush of reporters and photographers as he arrived by car for questioning early on Tuesday at Lille police station.

Strauss-Kahn, 62, quit his International Monetary Fund post after he was accused last May of trying to rape a New York chambermaid, although criminal charges were later dropped.

Linked later to the Lille affair, Strauss-Kahn asked to speak to police about the case.

Strauss-Kahn’s lawyer Henri Leclerc has said his client had no reason to think the women were prostitutes.

“People are not always clothed at these parties. I challenge you to tell the difference between a nude prostitute and a classy lady in the nude,” Leclerc told French radio in December.

LIVING IN THE SHADOWS

Eight people, including two Lille businessmen close to Strauss-Kahn and a police commissioner, have been arrested in the case, and construction firm Eiffage fired an executive suspected of using company funds to hire sex workers.

Using prostitutes is not illegal in France, but Strauss-Kahn risks being charged if investigators decide he knowingly had sex with prostitutes paid for out of company funds.

Belgian pimp Dominique Alderweireld, who often appears in French media under his nickname “Dodo la Saumure”, told Europe 1 radio on Tuesday that Strauss-Kahn might not have given much thought to who, if anyone, had paid the women at the parties.

“It wasn’t his problem. All he was interested in was having sex. That’s it,” he said.

Strauss-Kahn is quoted in a biography by Michel Taubmann published last year that he had taken part in “libertine soirees” but was disgusted by the idea of prostitutes and pimping. “It’s not my thing,” he said.

“Usually, people at these soirees are not prostitutes,” Strauss-Kahn is quoted as saying. “When somebody introduces you to his girlfriend, you don’t ask him if she’s a prostitute.”

While his wife Anne Sinclair has revived her career as a journalist with a new job as news editor at an upcoming French-language version of the Huffington Post, Strauss-Kahn has gone from a life at the heart of France’s intellectual and social elite to living largely in the shadows.

Photographed occasionally out and about in Paris, recently in a scruffy dark grey anorak, he is starting to make a comeback on the international speech circuit but is otherwise rarely seen on the social circuit.

He is often parodied on “Les Guignols”, a television programme that uses puppets to satirise politicians, portrayed as a skirt-chaser always wearing a leopard-print bathrobe.

Attempted-rape accusations brought against Strauss-Kahn last year by a Parisian writer were shelved by police in October.

The New York maid is pursuing a civil action against him.

Writing by Catherine Bremer; Editing by Louise Ireland and Daniel Flynn

Arrests made in New Delhi, Bangkok


Thai investigators believe they have found a link between this week’s bomb blasts in Bangkok and New Delhi, a senior security official said Wednesday, two of three attacks Israel has blamed on Iran.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, accusing Iran of targeting diplomats, said if the world did not stop Iran’s “aggression” the attacks would spread.

Iran, whose leaders had threatened to retaliate for Israel’s alleged car-bomb assassination of several of its nuclear scientists, denied involvement in the attacks Monday and Tuesday, including a bomb that failed to explode in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi. Iran blamed them on Israel.

Asked whether the explosives used in India and Thailand were the same, a senior Thai security official said they both had the same “magnetic sheets.”

“The individual was in possession of the same magnets and we are currently examining the source of the magnet,” National Security Council Secretary Wichian Podphosri said.

A man carrying an Iranian passport lost a leg when a bomb he was carrying in Bangkok went off Tuesday after an earlier explosion, apparently accidental, at a house he was renting. His other leg had to be amputated.

The suspect, identified as Saeid Moradi, was in stable condition in a Bangkok hospital, although he remained unconscious after 10 hours of surgery, said hospital surgeon Suparung Preechayuth.

Police said he had been charged with illegal possession of explosives, causing explosions, attempted murder and assaulting a police officer. Two other men shared the rented house with him. One was arrested at Bangkok’s international airport on Tuesday but he has not yet been charged.

The other was arrested Wednesday afternoon at Kuala Lumpur airport as he tried to board a plane to Tehran, Malaysian police said. The suspect, in his 30s, had evaded authorities at Bangkok airport and flown to Malaysia.

Police inspector general Ismail Omar said he was arrested on intelligence from Thai authorities and was being investigated for “terrorism activities” related to the Bangkok bombings.

In the Bangkok attack, one bomb went off in the bombers’ home. Another was thrown at a taxi that wouldn’t take one of the men who left the house. The third blew off the man’s leg when he tried to throw it at police and it either went off before he could throw it or it hit something and ricocheted back at him.

The American, British and Australian embassies in Bangkok told their citizens to be vigilant in light of the explosions but did not advise against travel to the capital.

A day earlier in the Indian capital, a bomb wrecked a car taking an Israeli embassy official to pick up her children from school, police said. The woman was in stable condition on Wednesday after surgery to her spine and liver.

Her driver and two passers-by suffered lesser injuries in the attack.

On the same day, an attempt to bomb an Israeli embassy car in Tbilisi failed and the device was defused, Israeli and Georgian officials said.

SIMILARITIES

Israel’s ambassador to Thailand said the bombings in Bangkok, New Delhi and Tiblisi bore similarities.

“If you put together all the details that we have until now, including the disclosure of the explosives, they are very similar, if not the same as that were used against our diplomats and our people in India and Georgia,” he told Thai TV.

Prime Minister Netanyahu told parliament that world must draw red lines to stop Iran.

“It harms innocent diplomats in many countries and the nations of the world must condemn Iran’s terror actions and demarcate red lines against Iranian aggression. If such aggression is not stopped it will spread to many countries.”

Iran dismissed the allegations, saying Israel often made such accusations.

“We are not accepting, we are denying this and I don’t know how they can assume within a short time of one hour that to say who has done this. It has happened in India. If India’s security says something like that then we have to verify,” Iran’s envoy to India, Seyed Mehdi Nabizadeh, told reporters.

Iranian state TV quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast as saying that Israel was behind the explosions.

“The main goal of the Zionist regime is to conceal its real essence in carrying out terrorist acts particularly assassinating Iran’s scientists,” the state news agency IRNA quoted Mehmanparast as saying.

Russia condemned the bomb attacks in India and Georgia and called on both countries to investigate but did not accuse Iran or any other country of involvement.

Moscow “decisively condemns these attacks by extremists,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “We are convinced there can be no justification for terrorism in all its forms.”

Russia has close ties with Iran and built its first nuclear power plant, which began operating last year, but invariably condemns any attacks it considers terrorism.

India also refused to be drawn into the blame game, saying it did not have enough evidence to reach a firm conclusion.

“The Indian government does not have any evidence pointing to any individual, entity, organization or country being involved in Monday’s blast, so far,” a foreign ministry spokesman said.

Police said it was the first time that such an attack in which a motorbike rider attached an explosive device to a car with a magnet had been carried out in India.

India has good relations with both Iran and Israel, so the attack makes its diplomatic balancing act between the two countries all the more difficult and has thrust the mounting tension between the Middle East rivals on to its doorstep.

Israel is the second-largest supplier of arms to India. But India is Iran’s biggest oil buyer, relying on it for about 12 percent of its needs, and it is Iran’s top supplier of rice.

Trade between India and Iran is unlikely to be affected by the bombing in New Delhi, Indian’s commerce minister said after a trade a association chief said he feared wary exporters would back away from deals with Iran.

Additional reporting by Panarat Thepgumpanat, Sinsiri Tiwutanond and Alan Raybould in Bangkok, John Chalmers in New Delhi and Dan Williams in JERUSALEM; Writing by Nick Macfie and Sanjeev Miglani; Editing by Robert Birsel

Deputy who arrested Gibson settles with department


The sheriff’s deputy who arrested actor Mel Gibson and was the subject of his anti-Semitic rant is settling a religious discrimination case against his department.

James Mee, who is Jewish, says he was subject to religions discrimination and a hostile work environment after arresting Gibson in 2006.

Mee claims that his supervisors ordered him to remove Gibson’s anti-Semitic remarks from the official incident report, placing them instead in a confidential supplemental report. He claims he was passed over for promotions in the department because he complained about purging the report.

Mee’s attorneys said a $50,000 settlement was reached with the department, subject to approval by the county claims board.

A trial set to begin this week, at which it was rumored that Gibson could be called as a witness, was cancelled.

Turkey’s jails filling up with journalists


Aziz Tekin, a correspondent for the Kurdish-language newspaper Azadiya Welat, had the misfortune of becoming a news item himself over the weekend when he became the 105th journalist in Turkey to be put behind bars.

That places Turkey – a country usually hailed as an exemplar of democracy and Islam – ahead of such repressive regimes as Iran and China with the largest number jailed journalists in the world according to the Platform of Solidarity with Imprisoned Journalists.

Others take issue with exactly how many of the detainees are being held purely for doing their jobs, but they don’t deny that scores of media professionals are being detained and face laws and a judicial system that makes it easy to put and keep them behind bars.

“The press is quite pluralistic and rather free, but it remains dangerous for a journalist who writes a critical article against the government, especially on the Kurdish issue or criticizing the judiciary. The risk of getting arrested is really high,” Johann Bihr, head of the Europe desk at the international press freedom group Reporters Without Borders, told The Media Line.

The number of detentions has increased “exponentially” in recent months, he said. Turkey fell 10 places on Reporters’ International Press Freedom Index to 148 among 179 countries. 

In December, some 30 journalists were rounded up in raids across the country targeting the Kurdish separatist movement. A day before Tekin was hauled in, a court in Istanbul refused to release 13 journalists including Ahmet Sık and Nedim Sener of the Oda TV news portal.

The wave of arrests prompted the U.S. author Paul Auster, whose books are popular in Turkey, to declare he is boycotting the country. “I refuse to come to Turkey because of imprisoned journalists and writers. How many are jailed now? Over 100?” Auster told the Istanbul daily Hurriyet this week.

The arrests come against a background of a changing power dynamic in Turkish politics. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP), the first Islamist movement ever to rule in Turkey, is marking a decade in power, presiding over a booming economy while it gently inserts more religion into public life and its backers into key institutions like the courts and the military.

The army, which once dominated Turkish politics and served as a guardian of the country’s secularism, is in retreat.

Erkan Saka, who teaches at Istanbul Bilgi University’s communications school and blogs at Erkan’s Field Diary, said the arrests are part of that realignment, which is now encompassing the secular, establishment media. “Under normal conditions, mainstream media has values in parallel to establishment, but now establishment itself is changing,” he said.

The arrests almost always involve journalists linked to Kurdish separatism or a shadowy anti-government conspiracy called Ergenekon that officials have been investigating in what they say was a wide-ranging plot by the army and other members of the old elite to overthrow the AKP.

Critics say the judiciary, which is directly responsibility for the arrests, makes little effort to distinguish between people covering controversial issues and the people and movements they are covering. Thus last December, the scores people rounded up for alleged links with a Kurdish separatist movement included journalists and Kurdish activists alike.

“All their interrogations have focused on the articles they have written and trips they have made—why did you attend a conference by left-wing or pro-Kurdish academics? Why did you decide to cover a pro-Kurdish demonstration?” said Reporters Without Border’s Bihr. “It’s really likely that prosecutors have nothing on them except their profession.”

Arrests are not the only problem besetting the country’s media. Turkey has introduced tougher Internet censorship, has pursued what critics say is politically motivated tax cases against media groups and deals harshly with people who violate bans on denigrating the Turkish state.

Media observers blame the judiciary first and foremost for the arrests. Turkey’s anti-terrorism law and penal codes give them a lot of latitude to detain people and to keep them under lock and key without filing formal indictments. One of the reasons media experts are not sure about the number of journalists under arrest is that it is impossible to see the charges filed against them.

When the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) published in December its annual census of imprisoned journalists it could only verify that eight were actually being held for their writing and reporting, a fraction of the 64 or so others counted. The estimate triggered a sharp debate in the human rights community. 

But Erdogan and others in the government have come to the defense of the country’s media freedom. “Turkey does not deserve the negative image portrayed to the world by the main opposition and some journalists and writers,” he said last week at an event marking the 25th anniversary of a pro-government newspaper, Zaman.

Others would beg to differ. They say that Erdogan has encouraged an atmosphere of press hostility with personal attacks on journalists who criticize him and his government and by personally pursing defamation lawsuits. Indeed, while defending the country’s record on media freedom, he decried in the same speech media conspiracies against the government.

“If you claim to have media freedom, you shouldn’t launch attacks on [newspaper] columnists who are critical of you. But he does that all that time,” Saka said.  “That triggers anti-journalist feeling in the bureaucracy and judiciary.”

Palestinians suspected of planning attacks arrested in Beersheba


Two Palestinians suspected of planning to carry out attacks on Israeli civilians in Beersheba were arrested.

The suspected terrorists, from Jenin and Gaza, were arrested in two different locations Wednesday morning, according to reports.

One suspect was arrested in an apartment in Beersheba in coordination with police, border police and the Shin Bet security service. Weapons were found in the apartment.

The second suspect was arrested at a security checkpoint near Beersheba.

Egypt arrests man in connection with gas line attacks


An Egyptian man, 20, has been arrested in connection with several attacks on a pipeline in the Sinai that carries gas to Israel.

The Egyptian state news agency MENA made the announcement Tuesday. The suspect is reported to be a resident of Arish, near the site of several of the attacks.

Articles on how to manufacture and use explosives were found on the suspect’s laptop, MENA reported, according to Reuters.

The pipeline has been attacked 10 times in the last year, since President Hosni Mubarak was overthrown, forcing major disruptions in the gas supply to Israel.

Egypt supplies Israel with more than 40 percent of its natural gas needs to produce electricity; electricity prices have risen by more than 10 percent in Israel since the attacks began.

Israelis arrested, fined for working illegally in Canada


Eleven Israeli citizens were arrested in Canada for allegedly working illegally there.

Their alleged ringleader, Iftash Jacob, was among 10 Israelis who were arrested Dec. 21 in a raid on a home in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and on kiosks at three shopping malls in the region. Canada Border Services Agency officials arrested an 11th person the next day outside a courthouse.

Jacob was released from custody Dec. 22 after surrendering his passport and posting a $7,500 bond. He must report to the Canada Border Services Agency every week and travel from Toronto to a Halifax court in February to enter a plea.

Eight of the accused—two women and six men – pleaded guilty to working in Canada without authorization, and each was ordered to pay a $1,000 fine. They are allowed to stay in the country but not work here.

One of the accused was freed on $1,000 bail and ordered to abide by the same conditions as Jacob.

Border Services claims that Jacob brought foreign workers to Canada illegally and was working without permission himself, the CBC reported.

Earlier this month, Border Services officials arrested 31 people that it said were working illegally at Ottawa-area shopping malls. Most were from Israel.

In WikiLeaks documents released in August, James Cunningham, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel, said schemes like this are a $1 billion industry. He said young Israelis are promised good pay for selling goods at mall kiosks, but many are forced to work long hours and return home with little money, according to the CBC.

Adam Lambert says ‘lesson learned’ after arrest


Former “American Idol” finalist Adam Lambert brushed off his arrest in Finland on Thursday, blaming his bad behavior on travel, booze and “irrational confusion” and adding “lesson learned” on Twitter.

“Jetlag+Vodka=blackout. Usblackout=irrational confusion. jail+guilt+press=lesson learned. Sauli+Adam+hangover burgers= laughing bout it. :),” Lambert tweeted to fans.

The “Whataya Want From Me” singer, 29, was involved in an argument in a Helsinki bar with his boyfriend, Finnish reality TV star Sauli Koskinen. Their quarrel became physical and the pair were arrested, questioned then later released by authorities, according to media reports.

Koskinen also addressed the incident on his blog, writing in Finnish, “publicity is not easy. But celebrities are only human people.”

Lambert, whose colorful costumes and makeup earned him the nickname “Glambert,” rose to fame in 2009 on U.S. singing contest “American Idol,” but lost in the final round of the No. 1-rated TV show to Kris Allen.

Despite being the runner-up, Lambert forged a solid career and now enjoys a loyal following as a singer. His single “Better Than I Know Myself” was released on Tuesday, and is currently at No. 30 on the iTunes singles chart. (Reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)

Israeli Education Ministry officials arrested in scam


Two officials in Israel’s Education Ministry were arrested on suspicion of taking bribes from a haredi Orthodox yeshiva.

The officials are accused of accepting reports that inflated the number of students at the institution, which increased the yeshiva’s budget allocation from the ministry.

They were arraigned Tuesday in Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court, Ynet reported, along with the yeshiva director and a teacher.

The officials reportedly have confessed to their involvement in the scam, which has been active for several months. The scam allowed the yeshiva to receive thousands of extra shekel a month.

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