22 Nov 2010

Israeli cult leader's lawyer charged with obstructing court and harassing witnesses

Haaretz - Israel February 7, 2010

Alleged Haredi child abuser's lawyer charged with harassment

By Ofra Edelman | Haaretz Correspondent

The attorney for a self-declared rabbi indicted for abusing several young children was charged himself on Sunday with obstructing court proceedings and allegedly harassing the main witnesses slated to testify against him in court.

Suspect Elior Chen, who was extradited from Brazil last year, and several of his followers allegedly used knives, hammers and other instruments to abuse children as young as 3 and 4 years old in the West Bank settlement of Beitar Illit in February and March 2008.

Attorney Ariel Atari was charged on Sunday with visiting M. - the woman who was charged and convicted of abusing her children while living with Chen - in 2008, while Chen was in exile in Brazil.

In March 2009, after being charged with child abuse, the woman agreed to a plea bargain in which she would serve a limited sentence on the condition that she would testify against Chen and other suspects.

Atari apparently presented her with evidence that contradicts her testimony, and actively gave the witness the wrong impression that it was permitted to talk to him, despite the fact that he was legally forbidden to have any contact with a witness for the prosecution.

During her conversation with Atari, he told her that Chen was worried about her, and described him as a good person who had her best interests at heart.

He also told her that he had seen the evidence complied against his client, including her son's medical file following the abuse, and told her that her son's physical ailments could be interpreted as the result of an accident.

He reminded her that she was confused and under a great deal of pressure at the time of the incident, and that she told her friend about the abuse while in a delicate emotional state.

The indictment against Atari also states that he told her that the facts were distorted beyond measure by her husband, and he repeated his views several times until she eventually told him that Chen forced her into submission.

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