Israeli police have arrested a rabbi who is suspected of holding around 50 women and children in conditions of slavery.
The arrest follows a raid on a complex in Jerusalem, where the alleged victims are believed to have been kept isolated from their families.
The women had been punished in various ways and had money stolen from them, police said.
The suspect, in his 60s, has denied doing anything wrong.
“The rabbi claims that this is a conflict between the women at the seminary and their families,” the public defender representing the suspect said https://t.co/hEfExMv7a2
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He was detained in an ultra-Orthodox district in central Jerusalem on suspicion of running a “closed community” where women and children “worked under conditions of slavery”, police said in a statement.
He and eight female accomplices are suspected of isolating the women in a residential complex, along with children up to the age of five, it added.
“We know that the women and children were there for several months inside the home,” police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld is quoted as saying by the Associated Press. “We know that he took their money away from them and was holding them against their will.”
Video footage showed bunk beds in cramped living quarters, along with piles of cash.
A two-month investigation was launched after police received reports the religious leader had for years committed “severe offences” against those living at the residence, police said.