'I hope Elior Chen departs this world'

Father of abused children says suspected ringleader of abusers took advantage of his wife's gullibility.

elior chen 224.88 (photo credit: Channel 10 / Israel Police)
elior chen 224.88
(photo credit: Channel 10 / Israel Police)
After a two-month international manhunt, a fugitive rabbi who police consider to be the ringleader and "spiritual mentor" in one of the worst child abuse cases in Israeli history has been arrested by Brazilian police, Jerusalem police said Wednesday. He is expected to be extradited to Israel from Sao Paulo in the coming weeks, a Justice Ministry spokeswoman said. Rabbi Elior Chen, 28, and his followers are suspected of severely and systematically abusing two boys, aged three and four, with hammers, knives and other instruments for months until the younger child went into a vegetative state in March. They are also suspected of abusing other children in the family. The three-year-old suffered permanent brain damage as a result of the abuse he suffered at the hands of his mother and her companions, according to an indictment filed against them in a Jerusalem court. He is expected to remain unconscious for the rest of his life. Chen was arrested in Sao Paolo late Tuesday night local time (early Wednesday morning Israel time), Jerusalem police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby said. Chen flew from Israel to Canada to avoid arrest, but almost immediately continued onward to Brazil. In an apparently successful tactic meant to attain information about his whereabouts, Chen's wife, Ruth, and their four children were deported to Belgium from Brazil last week, Jerusalem police said. Chen had apparently sought refuge with members of a vehemently anti-Zionist haredi sect in the Brazilian city, police said. Jerusalem police issued an international arrest warrant for him in April. Jerusalem police investigator Moti Edri said Wednesday that Chen has been under "increasing pressure" to turn himself in to authorities after his Israeli passport was confiscated during a police raid searching for him netted his wife in one of his apartment hideouts. Edri said the decision to deport Chen's family from Brazil - and briefly separate his children from their mother - was made by Brazilian police in the wake of past abuse cases, and not at the behest of Israeli police. Earlier on Wednesday, Jerusalem police said Chen had turned himself in, but that was apparently not the case. Chen's Israeli lawyer claimed his client turned himself in "to avoid a desecration of the Lord's name" after Brazilian media broadcasts that the Jewish community in Sao Paolo had offered him refuge. "He was not willing for the Jewish community to be defamed," attorney Ariel Atari said on Israel Radio. Atari said his client denied any intent to injure children, and that he fled Israeli because he did not trust its legal system. Israel and Brazil do not have an extradition treaty, but the two countries have been working closely during the investigation, which also involved Interpol. Jerusalem police said Wednesday they did not expect Chen to fight the extradition request. Five people, including the children's mother, have been indicted, with Chen expected to be charged almost immediately upon arrival in Israel. The other suspects received instruction from Chen on how to "fix" the children's behavior and "cleanse" them of their Satanic possession, the indictment said. The charge sheet recounts that the mother forced her children to eat feces, locked them in a suitcase for three days - letting them out only for brief periods - repeatedly beat, whipped, and shook them, burned their hands with a lighter and a heater, and gave them freezing showers. The mother and 'educators' are also suspected of pouring salt on the three-year-old's burn wounds, stuffing his mouth with a kippa and sealing his mouth with masking tape, and giving the children alcoholic drinks until they vomited. The father of the abused children, who assisted police in apprehending suspects in the case, said Wednesday he hoped that the self-proclaimed rabbi rots in jail. "Elior Chen is a dangerous man; I will only be at ease when he is behind bars," the father told Israel Radio. "We cannot know if he will try to do such a thing again. I bless him that he will depart from this world or rot in prison." The father, who was pushed out of the home after Chen became infatuated with his wife, cannot be identified due to the involvement of minors in the case.