The Jerusalem District Court yesterday convicted self-described rabbi Elior Chen of multiple counts of severe abuse against eight minors.
All were the children of M., who was one of Chen's disciples before finally turning state's evidence against him. She and her children lived with Chen, a resident of Betar Ilit, after he convinced her to divorce her husband.
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.
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 abuse endured by the victims, which Chen described as "correction," 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.
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.
But the 129-page verdict devotes considerable space to excoriating Atari's unprecedented conduct during the trial: Not only did Chen himself refuse to testify, but the defense did not cross-examine any prosecution witnesses nor bring in any witnesses of its own.
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