Elior Chen sentenced to 24 years in jail
'Rabbi' convicted of severely abusing children also ordered to pay victims $192,000 in damages
Aviad Glickman • Ynet
Self-proclaimed rabbi Elior Chen, who was convicted of severely abusing children in Jerusalem, was sentenced Monday to 24 years in prison.
The Jerusalem District Court also ordered Chen to pay NIS 700,000 ($192,000) in damages to his victims.
Judge Yoram Noam wrote in the verdict that "the crimes Chen committed were committed together with others – group members – who congregated in his shadow and worshipped him. The defendant employed a reign of terror over the children which included violence, contempt, and degradation."
"The personal circumstances of the defendant, as well as his wife and children's place of residence abroad, are pushed aside before the public interest in a severe penalty," the judge wrote of his sentence.
Noam added that Chen and his followers had "caused serious injuries to some (of the children) and left the youngest mortally wounded and in a coma".
"The sentence must properly address the basic values of the defense of life and body in general and the preservation of the bodies and minds of helpless minors specifically, and so constitute a deterring, effective, individualistic and general message," the judge concluded.
"This is the most severe case of abuse I have ever seen," said Prosecutor Daniel Mor. "The verdict signifies an end to this affair after three years of investigations and trials. The punishment is appropriate for Elior Chen's crimes. His claims have all been refuted in the court's decision."
But Yaakov Chen, Elior's father, continued to insist upon his son's innocence. "The judge wrote what the press dictated to him," he said. "His only crime was that the crimes were committed at his house."
Rabbi Avraham Froelich, who represents the Eda Haredit, also defended the convict. "Chen is a naïve and delicate soul. The evidence proves he did nothing. This is a Dreyfus plot," he said.
Chen's attorney said the defense had arrived at the sentencing with low expectations. "Chen's right to a fair trial was trampled. He did not get to see the investigation materials or question witnesses," he said, adding that they intended to appeal to the Supreme Court.
History of violence
The affair was revealed almost three years ago, when two brothers were taken to the hospital as a result of severe abuse. One of them was in a vegetative state, from which he has not recovered, and the other was seriously wounded.
Immediately after police began investigating, Chen fled Israel to Canada, and then Brazil. He was finally arrested and extradited to Israel.
An indictment against Chen was filed in 2009, citing instances of severe abuse by him and his followers of a group of eight siblings from Jerusalem.
Their mother, M, was also charged with abuse and has since been sentenced to five years in prison after expressing regret for the harming of her children. M. said during her trial that she had been stupid and innocent, and that Chen had succeeded in convincing her that her children were sick and that abuse was the cure.
A year later, in November 2010, the court convicted Chen of abusing a helpless minor, assaulting a minor, battery, and physical and emotional abuse.
Chen's followers have all been sentenced to 17-20 years in prison. "Chen conceived of and initiated the violent deeds and abuse of the children, and enlisted members of the group under his authority to join in his plan and carry out the deeds," the judge said in his decision.
According to some of his former followers, Chen planned to blow up the Temple Mount.
Chen also is a rabbi. He did not take the official Rabbanut smicha, ordination, test, but has ordination in the same way many haredi rabbis do – from one of his teachers.
Haredi leaders previously signed a letter declaring Chen is a talmud chacham, a man learned in Jewish law and Talmud, and declaring his innocence. Despite denials, that letter really was signed by rabbis from the non-hasidic haredi leadership, including Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, the haredi leader, haredi number two Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman, and Rabbi Elyashiv's son-in-law and haredi number three Rabbi Chaim Kanievesky.
Update 10:30 am CST – The Ha'aretz report:
Haredi 'Rabbi' Elior Chen sentenced to 24 years in prison for child abuse
Chen was convicted of abusing and ordering the abuse of eight children, which included beatings with clubs and hammers, kicks to the head, severe shaking, burning, being handcuffed and stuffed in a suitcase, food and sleep deprivation.
By Nir Hasson • Ha’aretz
The Jerusalem District Court Monday sentenced self-proclaimed Rabbi Elior Chen to 24 years in prison, one and a half years suspended sentence for multiple counts of severe abuse against eight minors.
Chen was also ordered to pay a compensation fine of NIS 400,000 to the children who suffered from the abuse.
Judge Noam Yaron called Chen's action "unprecedented, difficult and outrageous. The children remain wounded both physically and emotionally with critical brain damage."
Chen was convicted in December for abusing the children of one of his disciples, which included beatings with clubs and hammers, kicks to the head, severe shaking, burning, being handcuffed and stuffed in a suitcase, food and sleep deprivation, being forced to eat feces, and being forced to stand outside in the cold naked.
One of the children remains in a vegetative state to this day due to the abuse.
According to the verdict, Chen's followers possessed "blind admiration" for him, obeyed him unquestioningly and all their abuse of the children was at his express command.
Chen not only witnessed most of this abuse and handed out orders, the document continued, he also actively participated in the abuse.
The judge wrote in the sentencing that the defendant "contrived and initiated the violent acts against the children."
"These were violent, cruel and horrifying acts of abuse that were executed systematically and continuously, while raining terror over the children and dictating fear and terrorism; while oppressing, humiliating and debasing the minors," the judge wrote.
The child abuse affair was uncovered two years ago, when a child Chen had been treating was taken to the hospital unconscious. Once the story became public, Chen fled to Brazil, which extradited him back to Israel.
Chen, who called himself a rabbi, told his disciples the abuse was necessary to "purify" the children, all members of one family.
Four of Chen's disciples were convicted earlier and sentenced to jail terms of up to 20 years each. Prosecutors plan to seek a longer sentence for Chen, who was the ringleader.
In her conviction of the four disciples, Judge Nava Ben-Or called the case "incomprehensible," adding that Israel has never before known anything like it.
Chen's attorney, Ariel Atari, said he plans to appeal the conviction to the Supreme Court, arguing that his client did not receive a fair trial.
The mother of the eight children, who remains unnamed, was sentenced in May 2010 to five years in prison after pleading guilty to shaking, burning and tying up her children.