Children's mother, sentenced to five years on reduced charges, gives testimony against alleged abuse mastermind in Brazil and others.
By REBECCA ANNA STOIL
In one of the most graphic and disturbing child abuse indictments ever filed in Israel, prosecutors - relying on medical evidence and a mother's eyewitness testimony - described a childhood Sunday that sounds more like life in a prison camp than in apartments in a pricy Jerusalem neighborhood.
The mother, M, struck a plea bargain with authorities, promising to serve as state's witness against alleged abuse mastermind Elior Hen.
M agreed to confess to reduced charges involving abuse through negligence and offer testimony that prosecutors say will lead to Hen's conviction and that of his additional partners in crime. Hen himself is the focus of extradition proceedings currently under way between Israel and Brazil.
M and district attorneys agreed that they would ask the court to sentence her to five years in prison for the abuse-related offenses.
The District Attorney's office said that immediately after signing the agreement, M offered a long and detailed confession to police investigators. Sources familiar with the case said that the confession included many incriminating details that would strengthen the case against Hen and his associates.
M, a mother of eight, confessed to standing by and doing nothing while four-year-old N and three-year-old A were routinely subjected to physical abuse by family acquaintance Elior Hen and a group of men who viewed Hen as their mentor.
Hen allegedly told M that there was evil lurking within the two young boys, and that they must take "corrective" steps to exorcise it. Page after page of the indictment against M described those steps.
"In dozens of instances - and certainly no fewer than 40, the members of the gang would shake A and N very strongly while they held them by their back or shoulders, or by the shoulders, where their head would whip back and forth with great force. Similarly, they would bind their arms and legs with plastic ties and ropes for long hours," the indictment read.
In February 2008, the indictment claims, the members gathered in Hen's Beitar Ilit apartment and held N to a heating unit until his "skin smoldered and peeled" and then poured salt and alcohol into the child's wounds. As a result, the boy suffered second and third degree burns throughout his body, eventually requiring skin grafts.
According to the indictment, younger son A was forced to run back and forth in the yard until he collapsed, and the gang took him outside of Hen's house and poured hot water over him, and held him under running cold water until he choked. At one point, A was handcuffed and had his arm broken, and his mother admitted to allowing the injury to go untreated.
One of the older children was forced, under threat of a beating, to feed the younger children excrement. When the four-year-old, after being beaten into submission, finally ate the feces and requested a drink of water to wash away the taste, the members of the "gang" forced him to drink from the toilet bowl.
M - prosecutors say throughout the indictment, which was compiled with her cooperation - was aware of all of these incidents, and had not prevented any of them.
"M's statements are a breakthrough in cracking this serious case, and they will help to clarify the truth and bring to justice those involved in it, including M herself," said one Justice Department official familiar with the case.
Prosecutors argued that the conviction of the mother for abuse by neglect and the relatively tough five-year sentence constituted a precedent and passed a "clear message to the public regarding the complete responsibility of parents for their children's fates - responsibility that does not just require them not to harm the children themselves, but also to take action to prevent harm from befalling them at the hands of others."
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