Alleged cult leader Elior Chen
Alleged cult leader Elior Chen in court. Photo by Daniel Bar-On
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The Jerusalem District Court on Tuesday convicted a self-declared rabbi for abusing the eight children of the woman with whom he lived.

Last week, four of Rabbi Elior Chen's followers were sentenced to lengthy prison on similar child abuse charges.

The child abuse affair was uncovered two years ago, when one of the children 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. As a result, the children were severely beaten, burned, locked in suitcases and forced to eat their own feces, among other acts; one child remains in a coma to this day as a result.

In her ruling, Judge Nava Ben-Or called the case "incomprehensible," adding that Israel has never before known anything like it.

For instance, Mascalchi, 25, was convicted of burning the fingers of one child, taping his mouth shut, stuffing him into a suitcase and leaving him there for some time. Kugman, 24, was convicted of tying up the children and then beating them. He also held one child to an electric heater, causing burns so severe that the child needed a skin transplant.

Two of the four defendants sentenced earlier this week denied all the charges against them. The other two admitted to some, but claimed that they were helpless under Chen's "magical" influence.

The mother of the eight children, who remains unnamed, was sentenced in May to five years in prison after pleading guilty to shaking, burning and tying up her children.