A Chareidi girl from Israel, who smuggled a large amount of the Yemenite drug khat into Ireland three months ago together with a friend, was released on Tuesday. The girl, who is still a minor, was released without charge, a Chareidim 10 report said.
The girl’s friend, also Chareidi and in her early 20s, remains in Irish custody.
Attorney Mordechai Tzivin, who is active in international crime, extradition and Interpol, told Chareidim 10: “All the credit is due to Chabad shaliach Harav Zalman Shimon Lent. If it wasn’t for his intervention, there’s no way she would have been released.”
The two girls were arrested in Ireland three months ago and were released on bail to house arrest in the home of the Chabad shaliach, where they spent Rosh Hashana and the other Yamim Tovim.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry has published multiple warnings to Israeli travelers about smuggling khat, which is legal in Israel. Dozens of Israelis 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.
Over 15 Israelis were arrested in Hamburg, Germany in the past year and were released after being jailed for two months. There are also Israelis imprisoned in France and Czechoslovakia for over three months, with no release date in sight.
Tzivin, who has been active in securing the release of many Israelis on a volunteer basis, said: “Most of those arrested are from low-income families, some of whom are yeshiva bochurim and innocent girls. The dealers tell them that it’s not dangerous and not considered drugs.”
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)