11 accused in ransacking of Venezuela synagogue

Venezuelan prosecutors have filed charges against eight police officers and three other people, accusing them of involvement in a January attack on Caracas’ largest synagogue, prosecutors said Thursday.

Prosecutors said in a statement they’ve asked a court to approve charges including robbery, “acts of contempt against a religion,” and concealing firearms.

Among the suspects is a police officer who worked as a bodyguard for a rabbi. Another suspect is one of two security guards on duty during the attack, who is suspected of aiding intruders by deactivating an alarm and an electric fence surrounding the building.

Attackers broke into the Tifaret Israel synagogue on Jan. 30—shattering religious objects, spray-painting anti-Semitic slogans and stealing a computer database with the names and addresses of Jews in Venezuela.

Investigators believe the assailants planned to steal a large amount of cash they thought was inside. The vandalism, authorities say, could have been aimed at turning attention away from the true motive behind the crime.

The attack took place shortly after President Hugo Chavez severed diplomatic ties with Israel in protest of its military offensive on the Gaza Strip—provoking concerns among some Jewish leaders that his fiery rhetoric was encouraging a wave of anti-Semitism.

Chavez, who condemned the synagogue attack, has repeatedly said he simply opposes Israeli policies toward the Palestinians and holds nothing against the Jewish people.

Venezuela’s Jewish community numbers nearly 15,000.
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