Elior Chen's brother: 'Cult-shmult'

Elior Chen charged with

November 9, 2009 09:46
3 minute read.

Elior Chen, the self-styled rabbi who allegedly influenced followers to abuse their children in order to "correct their corrupt souls," was indicted on eight counts of abusing and assaulting minors by the Jerusalem District Court on Monday morning. The prosecution did not charge Chen with attempted murder, due to lack of sufficient evidence. However, prosecutors have said they would amend the indictment if additional evidence were to become available. Chen was extradited from Brazil some two weeks ago, and has been undergoing questioning at the capital's Russian Compound Police Station since. On the flight, he was accompanied by Brazilian and Israeli officers. The 29-year-old Betar Illit resident fled to Canada and then Brazil more than a year ago, after a horrifying affair of child abuse was reported in a haredi family in Jerusalem. In June, Chen was arrested by police on a residential street in Sao Paulo, and in July, Brazilian authorities announced that his appeal for refugee status had been denied, strengthening a Supreme Court order to extradite him. Chen's alleged crimes came to light after two brothers, an unconscious three-year-old and his four-and-a-half-year-old sibling, were rushed to the hospital on March 12, 2008, in serious condition. The younger boy suffered severe brain damage and is still unconscious in a Jerusalem hospital. According to the indictment filed against Chen on Monday, all eight of the family's children suffered some form of abuse at the hands of Chen and his followers. According to prosecutors, Chen instructed the mother of the family, along with others, to beat the children severely, saying this would mend their behavior. The two boys were reportedly beaten with hammers, knives and other instruments, and their mother, who has agreed to a plea bargain, has said those were just some of the crimes. Chen's brother, Ya'acov, dismissed the accusations on Monday, telling Army Radio that it "just cannot be" that his brother committed such offenses. He rejected the idea that Chen and his followers were part of a cult. "Cult-shmult, it's one big bluff," he said. "The whole thing has been made up." The 20-page indictment filed against Chen tells a different story, and delves into graphic and deeply disturbing accounts of the abuse he allegedly committed against the children. In the first incident documented, which purportedly took place on a Shabbat evening during Hanukka in December 2007, Chen and associates allegedly severely beat the family's three-year-old boy, repeatedly striking him in the face even after the fell to the floor from the blows. Chen also ordered members of his group to force the boy to drink arak and then jump up and down until he vomited, the indictment adds. The indictment describes incidents in which Chen and his accomplices forced the family's 13-year-old boy to feed his four-year-old brother feces. When the teen refused, he was beaten and told that if he did not obey, he too would be forced to eat the excrement. Other acts of abuse and assault fill the pages of the indictment, including accusations that Chen and his accomplices tied one of the three-year old's hands and legs together for long periods using cables and ropes. While the boy was tied up, Chen and his followers would strike him on his head and face. Furthermore, the indictment states that Chen and his followers would also beat the boy with a hammer and wooden sticks, burn his fingers and other body parts with a lighter, and force him to stand outside in the cold for hours at a time without proper clothing. Chen and his accomplices also allegedly tied one of the boys up with a rope and stuffed a kippa into his mouth before sealing it shut with tape. The indictment adds that the group then forced the boy into a suitcase, closed it and forced him to stay there for an entire day without food or water. One of the final incidents took place in March 2008, when, according to the indictment, Chen said, "We must silence him," of the three-year-old. A follower of Chen's allegedly then went into the room where the toddler was sleeping, shook him and struck him in the head until he lost consciousness. As a result, the indictment states, the boy suffered irreversible brain damage and is in a vegetative state.  The indictment goes on to reveal numerous and equally-shocking acts of violence committed against other children in the family, including forcing them to stay awake under the threat of violence, additional beatings and the use of tools or sticks to mete out abuse. Chen's lawyer Ariel Atari has said that his client would not speak to investigators about the accusations, but instead, would address all of them when he gets his chance to speak in court.

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