Four followers of accused cult leader convicted of child abuse

Haaretz, Israel/May 12, 2010

The Jerusalem District Court convicted four disciples of accused cult leader Elior Chen of child abuse on Wednesday.

Elior Chen was the spiritual leader of an ultra-Orthodox Jerusalem sect suspected of severe child abuse.

Chen 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.

The four convicted followers were accused of 22 charges stemming from 40 instances of child abuse.

One of the convicted, a 25-year-old male, was accused of burning the fingers of one of the children, sealing his mouth shut with scotch tape and stuffing him in a suitcase for an extended period of time.

Another convict, age 24, was accused of binding and beating the children in one incident. In another case, he was accused of placing one of the children next to an electric oven, causing severe burns and resulting in the child needing skin graft surgery.

The judge presiding over the convictions called the case "shocking," and said "the likes of this case has never before been seen in the state of Israel."

Earlier this month, another one of Chen's disciples, and the mother of eight of the abused children, was sentenced to five years in prison after pleading guilty to shaking, burning and tying up her children.

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