The Supreme Court on Monday heard the appeal of self-acclaimed “Rabbi” and convicted serial child-abuser Elior Chen.
Chen was convicted in November 2010 of being the “spiritual mentor” of a cult which committed a series of horrific acts of child abuse. He was sentenced to 24 months in prison while many of his followers were sentenced to even longer prison terms.
Another aspect of the drama in Chen’s case was that he successfully fled the country, initially escaping arrest by police.
Chen flew from Israel to Canada, immediately continuing on to Brazil, where he apparently sought refuge with members of a vehemently anti-Zionist haredi sect.
In an apparently successful attempt to obtain information about his whereabouts, the police sent Chen’s wife Ruth and their four children to Belgium in 2008, and the cult leader was eventually arrested in Brazil and extradited back to Israel.
Chen appealed his conviction on several grounds, but the key argument presented before the Supreme Court was that his original defense lawyer, Ariel Atari, had a conflict of interest when he represented Chen and therefore his defense of him was sufficiently negligent to justify either an acquittal or a retrial.
Chen’s current lawyer, Dror Arad-Ayalon, said that Atari had a pending indictment against him when he was supposed to be defending Chen.
This indictment in and of itself required Atari to disqualify himself, said Arad-Ayalon.
Further, Arad-Ayalon said that taken together, the indictment against Atari, plus the insufficient time given by the trial court to prepare the case, meant that Chen’s first lawyer failed to put up a sufficient fight. He repeatedly failed to question witnesses and challenge arguments made against his client.
At Monday’s hearing, the court appeared disturbed by the allegations, but also skeptical about overturning the conviction, echoing earlier comments by Atari that Chen knew about all of the issues and chose not to fire Atari.
Atari has also reportedly claimed that the Israel Bar Association approved his continued representation of Chen. The court decided that it needed further specific arguments and information from both sides before making a decision.
Chen and his followers were convicted of abusing young children with hammers, knives and other implements over a period of several months.
One child suffered permanent brain damage as a result of the abuse to which he was subjected by his mother and her companions, all under Chen’s orders. He is expected to remain in a vegetative state for the rest of his life.
Chen gave his followers instructions on how to “fix” the children’s behavior, and “cleanse” them of their satanic possession.
The chilling and gruesome child-abuse case included a mother who forced her children to eat feces, locked them in a suitcase for three days and letting them out for only brief periods, repeatedly beat, whipped, and shook them, burnt their hands and gave them freezing showers.
The abusive mother and the “educators” also poured salt on the burn wounds of one of the children, stuffing his mouth with a skullcap and sealing it with masking tape.
They also gave the children alcoholic drinks until they vomited.