Jerusalem court convicts 'Taliban mother' of child abuse

Haaretz, Israel/July 19, 2009

The Jerusalem District Court on Sunday convicted an ultra-Orthodox woman of severe child abuse and aggravated assault.

The mother of 12, from the town of Beit Shemesh, near Jerusalem, was charged in April 2008 on suspicion of beating her children with belts, sticks and electric wire.

According to the indictment, she also tied up one of her children, stomped on another's feet, cut one of her daughter's hair as punishment and stubbed a burning march on another's chest.

She was also suspected of forcibly waking her children by splashing cold water on them and of habitually locking them out of the house.

The woman's husband was convicted of assisting the abuse and of neglecting to report it to police. Her 27-year-old son is still under investigation for allegedly sexually abusing his sisters.

The police investigation began in early February 2008, after neighbors reported hearing a child crying for help and seeing objects being thrown at him. The responding officers were forced to wait outside the apartment for two hours because the mother refused to let them in. Only rabbinical intervention enabled the entry of the police.

The woman, who belongs to a sect in Beit Shemesh which wears black full-body covering as a sign of their religious modesty, has been connoted in the media as "the Taliban mother."

Her defense attorney said during the indictment proceedings last year that she had suffered "psychological disability and the welfare services provided no help."

Meanwhile, the Knesset is planning to hold a special session on the Jerusalem riots sparked by the arrest of another ultra-Orthodox woman accused of starving her three-year-old son.

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