Jailed Rubashkin gets OK to make religious trip

The jailed former head of Agriprocessors in Postville was to be gone two days, returning Friday.

Des Moines Register, Iowa/June 25, 2009

A former Postville meat plant executive named in a 142-count federal indictment was granted special permission Wednesday to leave Iowa for a two-day religious trip to New York.

Sholom Rubashkin, 49, was to leave his home Wednesday afternoon and drive through the night to observe the 15th anniversary of the death of Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson, a holy figure.

U.S. District Judge Linda Reade accepted the unusual request, despite a court order that Rubashkin remain in Allamakee County pending his trial on immigration, fraud and money laundering charges. The charges stem from an immigration raid at the Agriprocessors meatpacking plant in May 2008 in which 389 immigrant workers were detained.

Prosecutors did not object to the trip as long as Rubashkin stays under global positioning monitoring, according to federal court records. The U.S. attorney's office had opposed Rubashkin's request several months ago to be released from jail, amid concerns that he might try to flee to Israel under a "Law of Return" that welcomes Jews from around the world.

Rubashkin is a member of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement in Orthodox Judaism. His attorney, Guy Cook, said the annual event in Cambria Heights, N.Y., is of "exceptional religious significance for those of the Lubavitcher faith."

The holy pilgrimage to Schneerson's grave site is expected to draw tens of thousands of visitors, Cook said.

The Hasidic movement believes that part of his soul remains above his body at the grave site.

Rubashkin was scheduled to leave Postville with a friend at 1 p.m. Wednesday. He was expected to arrive at the grave around 8 a.m. today, at which time he will call his probation officer.

He will spend most of the day in New York and then depart for Postville around 7 p.m. today.

Agriprocessors has struggled financially since the 2008 raid and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in November.

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