A teacher at an orthodox Jewish school in Amsterdam has gone on trial accused of sexually abusing six pupils.
Ephraim S., 30, is said to have carried out the assaults between 2011 and 2012 at the Cheider school in Buitenveldert on children aged between 12 and 16.
The school authorities initially declined to press charges after holding an internal investigation and only reported the matter to police several months later after the then education minister Marja van Bijsterveldt intervened.
S. fled to Israel when the allegations first came to light, but was extradited to the Netherlands in 2016. He has since been held in custody.
The court heard that his behaviour first attracted attention early in 2012 when he was suspended by the school for giving inappropriate massages to children. S. claimed he had ‘only touched them on the shoulders,’ but the alleged victims claimed that the contact extended to other body parts, including sexual organs.
S. left for Israel in September of that year, by which time a second child had come forward with similar allegations. He denied that he had fled the country to escape justice: ‘I had already made plans to leave,’ he said.
He told the court he was ‘not a physical person,’ but added: ‘When you’re in teaching you sometimes touch children. My colleagues did too. But not in a way that overstepped the mark.’
The hearing is expected to last four days.