Rabbi Elior Chen, the spiritual authority behind a group accused of systematically abusing children in a Jerusalem family, has fled to Canada with one of his supporters, Haaretz has learned.
Chen is supposed to meet the other members of the group in Canada, where the family of one of the members lives, according to a friend of Chen’s who is familiar with the group but doesn’t belong to it. The friend said Chen fled with Joseph Fisher, whose name was not mentioned in an indictment filed yesterday against the mother of the children suspected of being abused by Chen’s followers. The remand of the mother was extended Sunday until April 14.
Jerusalem police and the state prosecutor’s office are considering the possibility of issuing an international warrant for Chen’s arrest. During a search of his home Thursday, police found evidence that appears to link the rabbi to the abuse, including journals that document the violence.
Two of the family’s eight children, aged 4 and 5, were hospitalized in serious condition two weeks ago, after Chen allegedly ordered two of his followers to discipline the children by beating, burning, pushing and shaking them, and tying them up as a way of "correcting" their behavior. The 4-year-old is still hospitalized and is in a vegetative state. Police suspect that Chen’s supporters also doused the children in hot and cold water and broke their bones with hammers and blows. The mother was charged with forcing the children to eat feces, beating them unconscious and locking them up in a suitcase for three days.
Jerusalem police also arrested an additional suspect in the case, and have issued a gag order regarding his identity. The Magistrate’s Court extended his remand by five days.
Chen and three of his supporters allegedly began providing the family with "educational lessons" several months ago. They allegedly kicked the father out of his home and began abusing several of the family’s eight children, especially the two youngest.
Chen and Fisher left the country legally, and their exit was registered at border control. Afterward, their wives and children went into hiding. The Fisher apartment has been cleared out and its contents have been placed in storage.
Police said they do not know the location of Chen’s and Fisher’s families, but Chen’s friend said they were hoping to go to Canada as well and may have already left the country.
Chen and his supporters chose Canada in part, the source said, because "the extradition law is tough" there. "Only in very exceptional cases does Canada extradite," he said.
Elior Chen’s father, Yaakov Chen, told Haaretz he did not know where his son or his son’s family was hiding. "I didn’t see him, I don’t know where he is," he said. "The last time I saw him was three weeks ago, after he had a girl. I went to his home in Upper Betar, gave him a present and that’s it. I haven’t seen him since. I’m sitting at home and eating my heart out."