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An ultra-Orthodox man suspected of orchestrating one of the worst cases of systematic child abuse in Israel has gone into hiding in Brazil, it was revealed on Thursday.

Israel Police issued an arrest warrant for Elior Chen last month. After his alleged crime was exposed, Chen and his family fled to Canada, ultimately making their way to Sao Paulo. Chen and his wife have been hiding separately since then.

Chen's wife, Ruth, and their four children left Brazil on Wednesday for Belgium. Hoping to pressure Chen's wife to turn him in, Brazilian authorities removed the children from their mother's custody and placed them with a foster family for two days. But authorities on Wednesday returned the children to their mother.

Chen, who calls himself a rabbi, is considered the spiritual leader of a Jerusalem sect that was found to have abused young children, two of whom, aged 4 and 5, were hospitalized in March in critical condition.

Chen allegedly ordered two of his followers to "discipline" the children by beating, burning, pushing and shaking them, and tying them up as a way of "correcting" their behavior.

Representatives from Israel Police who went Brazil in recent days did not arrive in time to locate Chen's family. The police hope that finding Chen's children and bringing them to Israel will pressure the fugitive to turn himself in.

However, Chen's lawyer Ariel Atari, said the police had exploited his client's young children as a "guarantee to expose their father," adding that such a tactic "is one of the most despicable acts imaginable."