Lev Tahor (“Pure Heart”), an extreme Jewish cult, asked for political asylum in Iran, according to a report by Yeshiva World News.

Back in 2018, the cult members “declared their loyalty and submission to the Supreme Leader and Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran.” They also sought “asylum, protection and religious freedom of the families of its loyal members,” and promised to “help counter Zionist dominance in order to peacefully liberate the Holy Land and the Jewish nation.”

The documented asylum request was revealed in a U.S. federal court last week and is expected to be used together with other documents to try a group of senior Lev Tahor members. The defendants are all charged with kidnapping, identity theft, conspiracy to defraud the United States and international parental kidnapping.

Lev Tahor is an extreme sect of roughly 200 individuals who claim to live within the boundaries of Jewish law, but whose practices fall well outside the bounds of normative Judaism.

The sect was founded in the 1980s by Shlomo Helbrans, an Israeli citizen. Helbrans, who lived in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, was convicted and served time in prison for kidnapping a 13-year-old Israeli boy in the early 90s. After serving two years in prison, Helbrans and his followers moved to Canada, but left shortly afterward to Guatemala amid allegations of child neglect.

In July 2017, Helbrans was found dead in a river in Mexico and the leadership of the cult was taken over by his son, Nachman Helbrans.
The movement is known to practice arranged marriages between minors and older cult members, and all female members must wear black robes that cover everything but their faces.

Yeshiva World News also reported a series of rules that Shlomo Helbrans made his followers swear to uphold, including requiring members to “negate [their] mind thoroughly and completely to the leader of Lev Tahor.” The rules also demanded that men, women, and “virgins” must “accept to do the will of the leader.”