3 men indicted in J'lem abuse case

Three men in their 20s were indicted Sunday in a Jerusalem court in a brutal child abuse case that has left a three-year- old boy in a vegetative state. The three suspects, David (Avraham) Kugman, 22, Avraham Maskalchi, 23, and Ro'i Tzoref, 25, are suspected of taking part in the systematic abuse of the children, which included severe beatings, whippings and burnings. The charge sheet was filed in the Jerusalem District Court just one week after the children's mother was indicted in the same court. The three men were charged with 22 counts of aggravated assault and injury, the Justice Ministry said. The abuse, which took place mostly in an apartment in the city's upscale Wolfson Towers, continued until last month, when the three-year-old lost consciousness and was taken to a Jerusalem hospital, where he has remained since. According to the nine-page charge sheet, the children were force-fed feces, burned, given freezing showers, locked in suitcases for three-day periods, and raced in circles until they collapsed. The charge sheet said Kugman and another suspected child abuser, Shimon Gabai, who is expected to be indicted later this week, carried out the most abuse against the children. The two men were study partners with the child's father and the fugitive ringleader of the group, Elior Chen, before the father's relationship with his wife fell apart and Chen suggested that he leave the house. After the father left the house, Kugman and Gabai were charged with educating the children, whom they repeatedly beat and physically abused at Chen's instruction in order to "cleanse" them of Satanic possession. The children were also beaten when they told their father that they were being beaten, the charge sheet said. The abuse of one of the children, age 12, took place in a yeshiva on Rehov Sarei Yisrael, where the boy was beaten in the head with a telephone and punched all over his body, the charge sheet stated. The latest indictments came just two days after police issued an international arrest warrant for Chen, who fled to Canada last month after the abuse case came to light. Chen's father, Ya'acov, has urged his son to return to Israel to stand trial, but his attorney, Ariel Atari, said he should remain abroad for the time being, since the atmosphere was "too hot" for him in the country.