During the past month, 20 Israelis were arrested in Europe after being apprehended smuggling Khat from Israel, which is illegal in Europe. According to the Yediot Achronot report, it is clear that many people have opted to ignore Foreign Ministry warnings, and the Israelis, most being bnei yeshivos and avreichim, were arrested and are expected to be sentenced to prison terms.
According to the report released by Tamar Shabak, the Khat, which is chewed by members of Israel’s Yemenite community, has become a popular drug in Europe. Since there is no prohibition against the khat in Israel, persons seeking to profit have begun enlisting innocent persons including young chareidim to transport the leaves; offering a free airline ticket and a quick profit. However, in many European countries, the khat, which appear innocent, is classified as an illegal drug.
In France alone, ten Israelis were arrested last month smuggling Khat, with most being young chareidim, bochrei yeshivos seeking a quick profit, as well as young non-religious persons in need of the cash, ranging in age from 18 to 27.
Rabbi Shlomo Bistritzky of the Hamburg Chabad House told Yediot that the bochrim who were arrested told him they were told the worst case scenario is that the khat would be confiscated by authorities, and they were unaware they would be placed on trial and face prison terms. They Israelis arrested face between two and seven years imprisonment for their actions. Some, who have small children at home, have already been sentenced to a year in prison and three months’ probation following their release. This is after they have spent three months in a German jail since arrested.
The bochrim who were arrested transported about 100kg (220 LBS) of Khat. Police have frozen some of the product to make certain they will have evidence for the trials, Yediot reports. The defendants are being held under harsh conditions; the report adds. Their time out of the cell is limited to a short period in a prison yard, where they encounter dangerous criminals. After two days, they were given tallis and tefilin.
According to Israel Foreign Ministry sources, as per the Yediot report, there are two or three suppliers in Israel, but since dealing in khat in Israel is not illegal, police are not able to become involved. In addition, the suppliers are telling the naïve couriers that if they are arrested, not to involve the Foreign Ministry, because they are bochrim and avreichim. As such, some of those in custody are dealing with matters themselves, and they haven’t any idea what to do, the report concludes.
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(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)