Mexican authorities arrest leader of ultra-Orthodox Jewish sect on charges of organized crime and human trafficking

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The Mexican authorities arrested the leader of an extremist ultra-orthodox Jew sect during a raid on the group’s territory at the weekend.

A state prosecutor identified the man as Menachem Endel Alter of Jerusalem, leader of Lev Tahor, which is accused of organized crime and human trafficking.

A man from Lev Tahor, a group of ultra-Orthodox Jews, carries a stove near family members in the village of San Juan La Laguna, Guatemala, August 28, 2014.

A man from Lev Tahor, a group of ultra-Orthodox Jews, carries a stove near family members in the village of San Juan La Laguna, Guatemala, August 28, 2014.
(REUTERS/Jorge Dan Lopez)

The raid was carried out on the group’s territory in the municipality of Tapachula near the border between Mexico and Guatemala. About two dozen women and children were also taken to a government home.

Moshe Alter, Endel Alter’s brother, delivered food to the women and children held at the shelter on Tuesday. He told The Associated Press that authorities had also taken away a 3-month-old baby whose mother was now in a shelter.

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At the shelter gate, girls and young women wearing long flowing white hooded robes shouted at officials and pounded on the perimeter wall to protest the detentions. Nissan Malka, one of the protesters, accused the police of illegally detaining the group’s members.

Moshe Alter said the problems stem from what he called a politico-religious conflict with former members of Lev Tahor, who are trying to dismantle it.

Lev Tahor has had legal problems elsewhere. Last November, two leaders of the group were convicted of kidnapping and sexual exploitation of children New York. They allegedly kidnapped two children from their mother to return a 14-year-old girl to an illicit sexual relationship with an adult man.

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The sect is known to have members in Canada, the United States, Mexico, Guatemala and Israel.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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