Three Chareidi Israelis, a 21-year old man, his 18-year-old wife, and the man’s 17-year-old brother were sentenced on Monday by a Moldovan court after being arrested a month and a half ago. They were charged for disturbing a policeman on duty and arguing with policemen and were fined 1500 euros each as well as legal fees totaling 3000 euros.
The charges could have carried a prison sentence of up to a few years but with the help of the Chief Rabbi of the Moldovan frum community as well as other rabbanim, the three are now free to return to Israel.
The story began on October 7th, when Natan Shamai, his wife and his brother, were arrested as they were about to board a plane in Moldova during the Aseres Yemei Teshuvah. The three had spent Rosh Hashana in Uman and had a flight back to Israel from the airport in Kishinev.
Shamai told B’Chadrei Chareidim what happened. “As we were boarding the plane, I saw a security guard approaching a young Israeli who was smoking on the steps up to the plane. The Israeli didn’t understand what the security guard was saying. I approached them and tried to translate but meanwhile, the young man who was smoking entered the plane.”
“The security guard tried to find the man on the plane but couldn’t identify him. Instead, he turned to me and demanded that I identify him and when I refused, he detained me. My wife (age 18) got scared and tried to stop them and then they arrested her also. My brother, 17, who was behind me also was arrested since the security guards claimed he also knew the identity of the man smoking on the stairs.”
The three Charedi passengers, including the couple, were taken off the place by the local police, arrested and placed in jail cells – in horrifying conditionד. Each one was placed in a separate cell, a tiny malodorous room with a pit in the corner in lieu of a bathroom.
“The cell was simply awful, everything was filthy and there was no linen on the extremely thin mattress,”Shamai said. “It was freezing and I caught a cold.”
They spent almost a week in jail since Moldovan law allows detainees to be imprisoned for up to 30 days without a sentence. The only food they could eat was provided by Rav Saltzman.
Meanwhile, Rav Saltzman, as well as many askanim, were hard at work behind the scenes as Shamai had called Rav Shimon Shisha, an Israeli askan involved in assisting detained Jews as well as the local Moldovan Chabad Rav, Rav Mendy Axelrod, on the way to the jail.
The above rabbanim as well as Dayan Rav Chaim Dovid Yosef Weiss of Antwerp, and Attorney Natan Rosenblatt managed to have them released to house arrest in the care of the Jewish community after paying a large sum of money to the Moldovan authorities.
The three were taken care of by the Jewish community until their case was heard, which dragged on since they had to reschedule their hearings twice. Their first hearing was scheduled for Yom Kippur and when it was pushed off at their request, it was rescheduled on Sukkos and they were forced to push it off again. Finally, their case was heard on Monday with a successful outcome, thanks to the assistance of the many rabbanim and askanim who got involved.