An ultra-Orthodox rabbi suspected of orchestrating one of the worst cases of systematic child abuse in Israel has turned himself in to Brazilian authorities, it was revealed on Wednesday.
Elior Chen turned himself in following ongoing cooperation between Israeli and Brazilian police to determine his whereabouts. After his alleged crime was exposed, Chen and his family fled to Canada, ultimately making their way to Sao Paulo.
Israeli sources said Chen's extradition to Israel would be carried out soon.
Chen's lawyer, Ariel Atari, said that his client turned himself in after reports in the Brazilian press began to surface, blaming the Jewish community for giving shelter to a child abuser.
"It's something Elior Chen couldn't live with. What caused him to turn himself in was the desire to prevent blasphemy."
Chen 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's wife, Ruth, and their four children traveled to Brazil with him, but departed last week for Belgium. Hoping to pressure Chen's wife to turn him in, Brazilian authorities had removed the children from their mother's custody and placed them with a foster family for two days, after which they were returned to their mother.
Representatives from Israel Police went Brazil to pursue Chen last week. An international warrant for his arrest was issued in April.
Chen allegedly ordered his followers to "discipline" children by beating, burning, pushing and shaking them, and tying them up as a way of "correcting" their behavior.
Chen had fled to Canada with one of his disciples after the arrest of a Jerusalem mother, apparently another of his disciples, on suspicion she severely abused her eight children at Chen's bidding. The mother was indicted for allegedly burning her toddlers, making them eat feces and locking them in a suitcase for days at a time, among other charges.
One of her children remains in a vegetative coma.
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