The owners of a Canadian Cafe were reportedly arrested and charged with public mischief for allegedly staging an anti-Semitic attack at their place, The Hill reported Friday.
On 18 April, police responded to a report of an assault at the restaurant. A woman said she'd been assaulted, and the restaurant was spray-painted with hateful graffiti, police said, according to CBC. It was the fourth attack on the Cafe in the last five months, The Times of Israel reports.
The investigation of the incident involved 25 police officers and about 1,000 hours of investigative work, according to the Times, which unexpectedly resulted in the arrest of the owners of the property.
"We found evidence of a crime. It just wasn't a hate crime," Winnipeg police Chief Danny Smyth said, adding that the attack was staged.
"The anti-Semitic graffiti and vandalism were also falsely reported as being done by outside suspects," he added.
what should one make of claims by owners of a Jewish café in Winnipeg that their café was spray painted with anti-Semitic graffiti on April 18 night when in fact it was all staged? https://t.co/gd5m5LKWTw pic.twitter.com/m9JvyvnrKK— Crescent International (@CrescentIntern1) 25 апреля 2019 г.
The police chief expressed his disappointment with the incident, adding that staged anti-Semitic incidents are likely to promote cynicism in the society. However, he declined to speculate on the owners' motive for allegedly staging the attack, The Hill report notes. He also did not comment on the previous attacks on the Cafe, which the police keep investigating.
Here are more photos from inside the cafe. Winnipeg police allege the attack on Oxana and the anti-Semitic graffiti spray painted around the restaurant was all staged. Police said this morning they have no further comment on the case. pic.twitter.com/mTo4Ks2EOj— Austin Grabish (@AustinGrabish) 25 апреля 2019 г.
The owners — Alexander Berent, 56, Oxana Berent, 48, and Maxim Berent, 29 — deny wrongdoing saying they would never "joke about swastikas on our walls."
"My grandmother's family, they died in the Holocaust. Just her and her little brother survived, the whole family. We don't joke about that," Oxana Berent said.
"We are shocked and deeply disturbed by today's news. It is deplorable that anyone would make false allegations of anti-Semitism, especially claims of such a serious nature, for any kind of gain," Jewish Federation of Winnipeg said in a statement. "False complaints of criminal acts of anti-Semitism are not only illegal, they undermine the important work necessary to counter anti-Semitism and hate in all forms.
"If the allegations of Winnipeg police are true, we condemn this fabrication of a hate crime in the strongest possible terms," says Bnai Brith Canada. "Making false allegations of anti-Semitism does nothing to quell the rise of racism and discrimination in Winnipeg and across Canada and will embolden the conspiracy theorists and purveyors of anti-Jewish hatred who blame the entirety of society's ills on the Jewish community."
Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman also condemned the alleged fabrication, calling it "disgusting." He said that if the mischief charges are proven in court, the actions of the accused would represent a "breach of trust" in the community, according to a report by CBC.