Suspect in J'lem child abuse arrested

Key suspect was hiding in a forest; police plan to issue int'l warrant for rabbi who fled to Canada.

By ETGAR LEFKOVITS
April 9, 2008 10:51
3 minute read.

A key suspect in a gruesome Jerusalem child abuse case was arrested Wednesday in a forest on the outskirts of the city, police said. Shimon Gabai was in police custody after the father of the abused children turned him in to police. Gabai, who was wanted by police, was hiding in a forest near the capital, Jerusalem police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby said. He will be brought to a Jerusalem court late Wednesday for a remand hearing. Meanwhile, police planned to issue an international arrest warrant this week against an extremist Israeli rabbi who fled to Canada and was one of the main suspects in one of the worst child abuse cases in Israeli history. Rabbi Elior Chen and his followers were suspected of severely abusing two children, aged 3 and 4, who were savagely and systematically beaten with hammers, knives and other instruments for months until the youngest lapsed into a coma last month. The three-year-old suffered permanent brain damage as a result of the systematic and brutal abuse he suffered at the hands of his mother and her companions, according to an indictment filed against his mother this week in a Jerusalem court. He was expected to remain in a vegetative state for the rest of his life. Chen, who served as a spiritual mentor to the abusive mother and who provided explicit written instructions on how to abuse the children, fled to Canada in order to avoid arrest after the case came to light last month, Jerusalem police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby said. He apparently did not have Canadian citizenship, Ben-Ruby added. According to the charge sheet, the woman's relationship with her husband broke down last year, and she expressed her desire to divorce him. The husband subsequently left their Jerusalem home, leaving his eight children in the care of his wife, as well as two other men who were charged with educating them. The men, who allegedly carried out the abuse along with the mother, received instructions from Chen on how to "fix" the children's behavior, and "cleanse" them of their satanic possession, the indictment states. During a search of Chen's Betar Illit home, police found evidence that appears to link the rabbi to the abuse, including notebooks that document the violence, police said. "Put stones on a [Sabbath] hot plate...when they are boiling, put them on the bodies of the children and then they will be cleansed," the instructions read. Chen also instructs his followers on how to tie up the children, and to prepare alcoholic drinks made of salt water and turpentine. These, he writes, should be given to the children in order to "vomit out the devil from themselves." Among the items police discovered at Chen's home were hammers, iron bars, turpentine, sticks, and handcuffs. Meanwhile, a Jerusalem court on Monday extended the remand of another suspect arrested by police late Sunday night by five days. The suspect, Avraham Maskalchi, a yeshiva student who twice tried to flee arrest and was nabbed after a police chase, allegedly took part in the abuse of the children, a police representative told the court. One of the woman's eight children also identified him as taking part in the abuse, the police representative testified in court. The charge sheet recounts that the mother allegedly forced her children to eat feces, locked them in a suitcase for three days - letting them out only for brief periods of time - repeatedly beat, whipped and shook them, burnt their hands with a lighter and a heater, and gave them freezing showers. The abusive mother and 'educators' were also suspected of pouring salt on the burn wounds of one of the children, stuffing his mouth with a skullcap and sealing his mouth with masking tape. The woman remains in police custody. Since her arrest last month, the mother has repeatedly been shown pictures of her children's injuries, but for the most part has not inquired about the children nor asked who was taking care of them, the police said.


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