Page last updated at 17:59 GMT, Wednesday, 28 October 2009

'Abuse rabbi' returns to Israel

Elior Chen arrives at Ben Gurion airport, escorted by police (28.10.09)
Mr Chen "called himself a rabbi" the justice ministry said

The leader of a Jewish sect has been extradited from Brazil to Israel to face charges of abusing children in a purification ritual to expel demons.

Elior Chen fled in 2008 after two boys, aged 3 and 4, were taken to hospital with severe injuries. One is in a vegetative state with brain damage.

It is alleged young children were beaten, burned and made to eat faeces at his home in the occupied West Bank.

A lawyer for the self-styled rabbi denied the incidents happened.

Mr Chen was arrested in June 2008 in Sao Paolo and his since been battling Israeli extradition requests in the Brazilian courts.

The Israeli Justice Ministry said the allegations relate "primarily to violence and severe physical and emotional abuse" on two brothers carried out by four followers of Mr Chen.

It said the abuse took place over a "prolonged period" mostly at Mr Chen's house in the Beitar Illit settlement, which has a large ultra-orthodox Jewish population.

The mother of the two boys is serving a five-year prison term under a plea bargain.

Mother's indictment

The charges laid against the mother, M, described a series of abuses in which she failed to intervene: shaking the children with "great force"; tying up their hands and legs with ropes, forcing them to drink alcohol until they vomited and beating them with a wooden hammer.

According to the charge sheet, the members of the group held the younger boy, A, under a stream of water until he choked, burned his fingers with a cigarette lighter and would strip him, put him outside and poor hot and cold water over him.

It said the older boy, N, then aged four, was put next to a heater until he was severely burned and his skin was starting to peel, and then poured alcohol and salt on the wounds.

An investigation was opened after the boys were brought for medical treatment in March 2008.

Mr Chen's lawyer Ariel Atari said on Wednesday that the incidents in question "never happened", the Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahranot reported.

"He will look at them during the probe, listen to them, and that's it. He will say whatever he has to say at court," he was quoted as saying.

Last year, Mr Atari said his client denied any intent to injure children, and fled Israel because he did not trust its legal system, according to the Jerusalem Post.

The trial of the four followers is continuing in Israel.

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