21 Jan 2011

Four followers of ultra-Orthodox cult leader sentenced to long prison terms for torturing children to purify them

Haaretz - Israel November 23, 2010

Followers of Israeli 'rabbi' accused of child abuse sentenced for complicity

The four were convicted of severely abusing eight children under Chen's orders two years ago; one of the children remains unconscious to this day.

By Nir Hasson

Jerusalem District Court sentenced Tuesday four disciples of self proclaimed Rabbi Elior Chen to lengthy prison sentences, after they were convicted of child abuse earlier this year.

Elior Chen, second from right, with three of his followers (from left): Shimon Gabai, David Kugman and Avraham Mascalchi. Photo by: Reproduction

The four were convicted in February of severely abusing eight children. David Kugman- the central defendant in the case – was sentenced to 20 years in jail; Avraham Mascalchi and Shimon Gabai were sentenced to 17 years in prison, and Ro'i Tzoref was sentenced to 30 months in prison after the court ruled that he played a minor part in the abuse.

The child abuse affair was uncovered two years ago, when a child Chen had been treating was taken to the hospital unconscious. Once the story became public, Chen fled to Brazil, which extradited him back to Israel. He is now on trial at the Jerusalem District Court.

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 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.

Chen's trial is currently taking place in Jerusalem.

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Jerusalem Post - November 24, 2010

Chen’s ‘disciples’ jailed for up to 20 years


Four men tortured children, feeding them feces and locking them in suitcases; one has been in a coma since 2008 after severe beating.

Jerusalem District Court Judge Nava Ben-Or sentenced four “disciples” of self-proclaimed rabbi Elior Chen to up to 20 years in prison for their sadistic brutalization of the children of one of Chen’s followers.

Ben-Or sentenced David Avraham Kugman to 20 years in jail and a one-year suspended sentence and ordered him to pay NIS 200,000 in compensation to the children. Avraham Maskalchi and Shimon Gabai were each sentenced to 17 years in jail, a one-year suspended sentence and ordered to pay NIS 100,000 in compensation.

Roi Tzoref, who was present only part of the time during which Chen was in control of the children, was sentenced to 30 months in jail, six months’ suspended\ and ordered to pay NIS 10,000 in compensation.

Chen is being tried separately, while the mother of the children, identified as M., has already been sentenced to five years in jail for her role in the affair. She turned state’s witness and testified against her former “teacher.”

In her verdict, Ben-Or wrote, “By their actions, the defendants, particularly Kugman, Maskalchi and Gabai, subverted the most fundamental moral foundation of human society.

The inflicted a deep wound on the ability of little children to trust and rely on adults. They inflicted a mortal wound on the helpless and seriously undermined the fundamental understanding that children, by virtue of their being children, are to be defended against evil.

She also wrote that the accused did not lose their ability to distinguish right from wrong during the time they were under Chen’s direct influence.

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