'Ringleader' in J'lem abuse case could be extradited in weeks

Israel, Brazil work together to resolve 'Rabbi' Elior Chen's fate.

elior chen 224.88 (photo credit: Israel Police)
elior chen 224.88
(photo credit: Israel Police)
The suspected ringleader and spiritual mentor in one of the worst child abuse cases in Israeli history, who is currently under arrest in Brazil, will decide only next week whether he agrees to be extradited back to Israel, his Israeli attorney Ariel Atari said Thursday. 'Rabbi' Elior Chen, 28, was apprehended by Brazilian police on a residential street in Sao Paolo on Tuesday night after his local lawyer called Brazilian police with information about his whereabouts, officials said. A Justice Ministry spokeswoman said Thursday that they were waiting for Chen's response to the extradition request. Israel and Brazil do not have an extradition treaty, but law enforcement officials from the two countries have been working hand-in-hand on the case since an international warrant for Chen's arrest was issued in April. Brazilian authorities are eager to deport Chen back to Israel, Israeli officials said. The Justice Ministry spokeswoman said that Chen could be extradited to Israel "in the coming weeks" if he agrees to the extradition request and does not mount a legal battle against the move, which could drag on for months. His extradition is currently pending approval by the Brazilian Supreme Court. Chen and his followers are suspected of severely abusing two children, aged 3 and 4, who were beaten with hammers, knives and other instruments for months until the former lost consciousness in March. They are also suspected of the severe abuse of other children in the family. The 3-year-old suffered permanent brain damage as a result of the abuse he suffered at the hands of his mother and her companions, and is expected to remain in a vegetative state for the rest of his life. In an effort to avoid arrest, Chen had fled the country just as police uncovered the abuse, traveling to Brazil via Canada with his own family. Five people, including the children's mother, have already been indicted in the grisly case, with Chen expected to be charged almost immediately upon arrival in Israel. Meanwhile, the trial of the children's mother was postponed Thursday until next month, after the mother's attorney resigned from the case. An attorney for the family, Gil Friedman, told the Jerusalem District Court that the family is opposed to the appointment of a public attorney, a proposal made by the court. Friedman told reporters outside the courtroom that the family views Chen as the "chief culprit" in the whole case, and that the mother plans to deny the charges against her. He added that the children's mother, who has been charged with severe child abuse, was "altogether a victim." The chilling 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 - repeatedly beat, whipped, and shook them, burnt their hands, and gave them freezing showers. In court on Thursday, the children's mother once again immersed herself in a Book of Psalms, her perpetual courtroom reading material.