Rabbi cries 'racism' over corruption hearing

Rabbi Pinto, who has been embroiled in a years-long corruption scandal, accuses State of forcing him to return - because he's Sephardic.

Haim Lev ,

Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto
Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto
Meged Guzani/POOL

Rabbi Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto once again aroused controversy Thursday, after he blamed racism for the ongoing corruption case against him. 

"What they have done to us is a terrible injustice," Pinto lamented to the followers of his Shuvu Yisrael sect. "Three years in Israel they abused us." 

Pinto cited his and his wife's medical conditions, which critics have noted have coincidentally flared up each time Pinto is due for a hearing. The rabbi accused the media, and the State, of forcing his family to unjustly return to Israel out of a lack of mercy. 

"What, did they do this because I'm a rabbi? Because I'm Sephardic?" he asked, playing residual ethnic tensions in Israeli society between Jews of European and Middle Eastern descent. 

Pinto further explained that his stay in the US was not to run from the law, but to receive better cancer treatments. He added that he would not have left Israel permanently, for the sake of his family still living in the Jewish state. 

Rabbi Pinto was supposed to return to Israel on Monday, but he did not board the plane to return from New York, with his followers claiming he collapsed at the door of the El Al plane - marking the second time he's collapsed on his way to trial.

He signed a plea bargain agreement last year that attributes to him crimes of bribery, attempted bribery and disruption of proceedings. The State Attorney's Office was expected to demand a one year prison sentence against the controversial rabbi.

As part of the plea agreement, Pinto would serve as a state witness against former police officer Maj. Gen. Menashe Arbiv, who is to be investigated on suspicion of receiving benefits from Pinto.

Despite admitting to involvement in the crimes, Pinto himself has been highly vocal over his innocence, claiming in hyperbolic statements to his followers that the verdict has "stabbed them with a million knives," and that he is "the most persecuted in this generation," as well as blaming the corruption scandal on "satan."

The statements were later found to be violations of the plea deal, causing three of his most high-profile attorneys to quit the complex case last October.