Members of Jewish sect who fled Canada to appear in Guatemala court

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TORONTO - Some members of a Jewish sect who fled Canada this month are scheduled to appear in a Guatemala court today.

Uriel Goldman, a spokesman for the Lev Tahor group, says two families _ made up of three adults and six children in all _ have been ordered to appear in family court in the town of Solola.

At least two Lev Tahor families left Canada for Guatemala last week in the face of child custody hearings.

About 200 members of the sect _ 114 of them children _ settled in Chatham, Ont., last year after suddenly leaving from Ste-Agathe-des-Monts, Que.

Child-welfare authorities in Quebec spent a year investigating issues related to hygiene, health and allegations that the children weren't being educated according to the provincial curriculum.

The group has denied all allegations of mistreatment and Goldman says the two families in Guatemala have done nothing wrong.

"For these two families, there are no concerns about anything with the parents and the kids," he said in an interview from Chatham, Ont.

Goldman says the families appeared before a judge on Friday who said they could remain free over the weekend.

It was not immediately clear whether Guatelmalan authorities were acting at the Canadian government's request or investigating the families independently.

A spokesman for Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs says consular officials in Guatemala are in communication with local authorities on the issue.

A Quebec court ordered late last year that 14 Lev Tahor children be placed in foster care.

Organizations: Department of Foreign Affairs

Geographic location: Guatemala, Canada, Chatham Quebec TORONTO Solola Monts, Que

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