A 20-year-old Chareidi Israeli was sentenced to two years of prison in France and a fine of €14,000 ($15,223) for smuggling khat on Wednesday, Israel’s Foreign Ministry announced on Thursday afternoon.
The 20-year-old was arrested a week ago at the airport in Paris when 40 kilograms of khat was found in his possession.
The Chareidi young man was convinced to smuggle khat into Europe by a Kiryat Sefer man, the man behind the network recruiting hundreds of Chareidi young men and women to smuggle Khat into Europe, according to a Chareidim10 report.
Another young man from a Chareidi family was arrested in Czechoslovakia two weeks ago when 40 kilograms of khat was found in his possession.
Attorney Mordechai Tzivin, who specializes in international crime, extradition and Interpol and has voluntarily assisted in over ten cases of Chareidi youth arrested in Europe for smuggling Khat, said that the Kiryat Sefer resident, “D.B.,” convinces the youth that smuggling Khat isn’t dangerous since it’s not an illegal drug in Israel.
Tzivin added that the police are aware of the identities of the Khat operators but they have no legal means to stop them since there is no law that bans taking Khat out of Israel.
The Department of Israelis Abroad in the Foreign Office Consular Division is familiar with over 100 cases of Israelis being arrested in Europe for smuggling khat in the past year.
A Foreign Ministry spokesperson added that “the punishments in Europe for smuggling khat are becoming more and more strict and many young adults are finding themselves in prisons abroad for long periods.”
“The Foreign Ministry again warns young adults and their families not to be tempted by offers to smuggle khat into Europe, where it is illegal and is fully considered a drug.”
The Israeli Foreign Ministry has published multiple warnings to Israeli travelers about smuggling khat, which is legal in Israel. Dozens of Israelis, many of them Chareidi, have been arrested in various countries in the past two years for smuggling khat, which is so widely sought in Europe that one kilogram can be sold for a few hundred euros.
Khat has been used traditionally for centuries in Somalia, Yemen and Ethiopia and khat chewing is an important social ritual there in all types of settings including khat cafes (mafrishes). Although some view it as a mild stimulant, there is evidence that khat is addictive and long term use or abuse has been linked to various disorders, including insomnia, anorexia, gastric disorders, depression, liver damage, heart attacks and psychiatric disorders. Some say that khat is used as a substitute for alcohol in countries where alcohol is prohibited for religious reasons.
The use of khat spread to Europe and North America together with immigrants from Africa and the Middle East, but unlike the immigrants who view khat like coffee, most Western countries place it in the same category as cocaine.
“It is definitely not like coffee,” Garrison Courtney, spokesman for the Drug Enforcement Administration, told the Los Angeles Times in a 2009 article about khat. “It is the same drug used by young kids who go out and shoot people in Africa, Iraq and Afghanistan. It is something that gives you a heightened sense of invincibility and when you look at those effects, you could take out the word ‘khat’ and put in ‘heroin’ or ‘cocaine.’”
Others add that khat is linked to violence in Somalia.
The UK banned khat in 2013, joining the US, which banned it in 1993, Canada and most European countries.
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)