Elior Chen court 311.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Jerusalem District Court Judge Nava Ben-Or convicted four followers of self-styled rabbi Elior Chen on Wednesday, on all 22 charges leveled against one or more of them in the severe abuse of a Jerusalem woman’s children.
The woman had accepted Chen’s authority, divorced her husband and married him even though he was already married.
Chen is standing trial separately, and the mother, identified as M., has already been tried, convicted and sentenced for her part in the affair. She is due to appear as a state’s witness in Chen’s trial.
The defendants in the trial were David Kugman, Avraham Maksalchi, Ro’i Tzoref and Shimon Gabai.
According to the indictment, M. and her husband, D., met Chen several years before the criminal actions began in 2007. Relations between the couple began to deteriorate after Pessah 2007, and the two divorced in September of the same year.
After the divorce, M. continued to live in her house with her eight children. Chen and the defendants spent time with M. and the children after that. A few weeks after the divorce, Chen’s yeshiva collapsed, and he was left with three of his followers, Kugman, Maksalchi and Gabai. Tzoref left the group after the yeshiva collapsed and did not participate in any subsequent incidents. However, he was convicted on two counts for his previous actions.
The abuse of the children began while M. still lived in her own house, but became much more severe after January 2008, when she moved with her children to Chen’s home in Betar Illit.
Of all the incidents included in the indictment, the most severe was perpetrated by Kugman on March 12, 2008, not long before the affair was uncovered.
According to the indictment, Kugman entered the room of A., the youngest of the children, at 5 a.m., when the child was still asleep. He “stood him up on his legs and began beating him with force, punching him many times in his face and head, as he had been accustomed to doing throughout the period covered by the indictment. At some point, A. collapsed in Kugman’s arms and lost consciousness.”
The child has remained in a coma ever since.
Kugman was charged and convicted of assault with aggravated intent regarding this incident.
At the end of the 327-page ruling, Ben-Or wrote, “The prosecution proved beyond a reasonable doubt all of the crimes of violence and abuse which it attributed to the defendants in the indictment. The case involves minors, whom the defendants, each in his turn and according to his share, took upon themselves the responsibility to ‘educate.’”
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