Court (illustrative)
Court (illustrative) iStock

The Regavim Movement on Wednesday requested Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit and Israel Police open an investigation against a judge in Be'er Sheva's Sharia Court, after it was discovered that he had illegally approved a polygamous marriage.

While technically illegal, polygamy is widespread in the Bedouin Arab community and state Sharia courts are often used to grant recognition to children from marriages which were officially nullified or are otherwise not registered with the state – including marriages with women illegally residing in Israel. In such cases, the court aids children from these relationships to gain citizenship in Israel, despite the mother’s lack of legal residency.

Even the National Insurance Institute (Bituah Leumi) gives de facto recognition of polygamous marriages in the Bedouin sector, allowing women applying for benefits to list their family status as members of "enlarged families."

The recent ruling allowed Ayman Abu Sakik, a resident of the Ar'ara in the Negev, to marry a second woman while still remaining married to his first wife, thereby violating the law against polygamy.

Abu Sakik was sentenced to community service, though the law allows up to five years in prison for polygamous men.

The Magistrates Court wrote that "the Sharia Court in Be'er Sheva approved in a ruling marriage to an additional woman," but did not mention explicitly the name of the judge who approved it.

Regavim lawyers Avi Segal and Yael Sinmon requested Mandelblit order an investigation be opened in order to discover who the judge was and take the necessary actions against him, since he is suspected of approving forbidden marriages and divorces, registering fraudulent documents, fraud and breach of trust, failure to fulfill official requirements, and violation of statutory requirement.

"This incident is just one example of an extremely disturbing trend in which Sharia judges who are part of the Israeli justice system and who are obligated to the State's laws approve illegal marriages under the 'auspices' of the State and the judiciary," they said.