Israelis in extremist Jewish sect seeking asylum in Iran
Group leaders pledged allegiance to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
Hundreds of members of an extremist Jewish group, Lev Tahor, are attempting to travel to Iran for asylum.
Lev Tahor, an anti-Zionist sect currently based in Guatemala, is composed of around 280 members.
Many in the group hold Israeli citizenship, sparking fears among relatives that the group’s arrival will cause a severe diplomatic crisis, according to The Times of Israel.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry said it is utilizing “a variety of channels” in an effort to resolve the situation, Haaretz reported.
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Relatives of group members contacted Israel's Foreign Ministry and Justice Ministry and asked them to urgently contact their Guatemalan counterparts to prevent the families from leaving, according to Ynet.
Reports say Guatemalan authorities have detained a number of members of the group who have American nationality.
Documents were presented to a US federal court in 2019 showing that leaders of the community sought asylum in Iran and pledged allegiance to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The ultra-orthodox cult came under scrutiny in Canada amid accusations they engaged in child abuse, prompting the group to move to Guatemala in 2014.
Women in the sect are almost entirely covered in black robes, and child marriages are reportedly a common practice among members, according to Haaretz.