Elior Chen, who was dubbed “the king” by his followers and claimed to be in direct communication with God, was found guilty in the Jerusalem District Court on Tuesday of abusing and committing violence against the eight children of a woman who became his disciple.
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Chen’s lawyer, Ariel Attias, told reporters later that his client was “completely innocent” and that he intended to appeal the conviction to the Supreme Court.
The reading of the verdict was an anticlimax to one of the most disturbing affairs in the country’s history. Presiding Judge Yoram Noam took his seat, announced in a few words that he had convicted Chen, and then quickly left the courtroom.
The verdict itself, however, was 130 pages long.
A few minutes earlier, Chen, handcuffed and flanked by two prison guards, entered the small courtroom and sat down on a bench along the wall. He was dressed in black pants, a white shirt and a black, short-sleeved sweater. His beard and side curls were long and unkempt. He had a slight smile on his face and did not display any obvious signs of nervousness about the outcome of the trial.
The next step in the judicial process will be the pleadings for sentence by the defense and the state, and then the sentence itself. Noam did not announce the dates for these procedures on Tuesday.
Chen was charged with viciously and sadistically harming all eight siblings, and particularly three of them: A., age three, N., age four, and Shin, age 13.
His followers were tried, convicted and sentenced in a separate trial that ended two weeks ago.
In one of several references in his written verdict, Noam wrote, “The directives and instructions that the defendant gave to the members of the group having to do with the treatment of the children through ‘corrections’ included, among other things, beatings, in some cases using objects, rods and hammers; inflicting blows to all parts of the body including the head; lengthy shaking of some of the children’s heads backward and forward forcefully; causing bruises, wounds and burns; handcuffing the children, including stuffing them in a suitcase; depriving them of sleep and food, including leaving them in the cold without clothes; and forcing them to eat feces and drink arak.”
Noam wrote that although Chen had committed these acts in conjunction with his followers, “the defendant should be seen as the principal perpetrator...
of all the violent crimes and abuse committed by the members of the group toward the children. He stood at the head of the criminal group, served as the spiritual father of all the crimes which he initiated, and was therefore responsible for the key contribution within the group for the criminal act.”
The sadistic mistreatment of the children first came to light on March 11, 2008, when four-year-old N. was brought to hospital with severe burns on both of his legs. Later the same day, A. was brought to the same hospital in a comatose state, in which he has remained ever since.
Three months earlier, the mother, who had married Chen even though he was already married and had three children, had moved into his house in Betar Illit with all of her children. It was during this period that most of the attacks on her children took place, though some of them had already occurred in her home in Jerusalem’s Old City.
The mother sent N., who was suffering from the burns he had endured, to a woman for care, and she contacted social workers because of his condition.
On March 11, Chen sent all the children to their grandmother’s house and disappeared. Five days later, Chen flew to Brazil, from which he was extradited on October 28, 2009.
Before sending the children to their grandmother, he warned all of them, including the mother, not to say anything about what had happened. They maintained their silence for almost three weeks before beginning to talk to the police.
Soon afterward, the mother, who was also charged in the case and sentenced to five years in jail, turned state’s witness.
After Chen was returned to Israel, he refused to answer police questions during his interrogation. Attias also refused to question him in court. To date, Chen has not given his version of what happened to anyone.
Attias not only refused to call up Chen to the witness stand, he also refused to cross-examine any of the state’s witnesses or call up witnesses of his own. He charged all along that the court had not given him sufficient time to properly prepare his defense, and essentially boycotted the proceedings except for presenting three days of summation arguments.
He continued that same strategy on Tuesday, after the verdict was issued, charging that Chen had not received a fair trial.
Meanwhile, Chen’s mother, Vivian, told reporters that the media had been
prejudiced against her son from the very beginning and had branded him a
“monster.” When some of the reporters protested that it was the police
who had called him that name, she replied that the police were corrupt.
It is likely that Chen’s sentence will be a harsh one. Three of his
followers, who were with him and the children in Betar Illit between
January and March 2008, recently received sentences of between 17 and 20
years for their part in the crimes committed against the children.
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