Controversial Jewish sect members detained in Trinidad and Tobago

TORONTO (JTA) — Several members of the controversial haredi Orthodox Jewish sect Lev Tahor have been detained in Trinidad and Tobago.

Three Lev Tahor adults and six children were intercepted in Trinidad and Tobago on Wednesday while trying to catch a flight to Mexico, the Toronto Sun reported.

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It appears they were on the run. On the same day, a court hearing was held in Chatham, Ont., where the sect is appealing an earlier decision to uphold a Quebec order to seize 13 children and return them to Quebec in foster care.

Child care officials say they have evidence of physical beatings, sexual abuse, underage marriage and forced medication in the community.

No sect members showed up in court Wednesday, and the court hearing was adjourned.

Lev Tahor spokesman Nachman Helbrans confirmed the two families and 13 kids are no longer at the rural Ontario settlement where they had fled to from Quebec last fall just before officials could execute the order to seize the children. He said he did not know where they had gone.

“The children are on a trip, on a vacation,” he told the Sun, adding the families wanted to be out of the country to await the outcome of the court battle because they don’t want their kids sent back to Quebec.

It wasn’t immediately clear if all the affected children were in Trinidad or if some had gone elsewhere.

An immigration official in Trinidad reached by the Toronto Star said the group refused to go back to Toronto and was subsequently detained. Sect members hired a lawyer to try and get passage to Guatemala, he added.

“I think they ended up in Trinidad by mistake because they missed their flight to Mexico,” the official was quoted as telling the Star. He said sect members were detained in Trinidad because they did not have connecting tickets.

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