Authorities transferred custody Wednesday of four children belonging to the wife of an alleged child abuser, who is currently overseas fleeing arrest together with his wife, in an effort to entice the two to return to Israel and face charges, Haaretz has learned.
Elior Chen, who headed a Jerusalem sect that was found to have abused young children, and his wife, Ruth, are in hiding in a foreign country, the name of which cannot be revealed due to censorship laws. In the coming days, a representative of the family is expected to travel to the country where the couple is hiding, and will attempt to persuade them to return home. Police removed the children from the care of Ruth Chen's family and will deliver them to the care of a foster family.
Both Israeli law enforcement and the loca police in the foreign country know in which city the two are located, however their exact location remains unclear. According to information obtained by Haaretz, Ruth Chen is supportive of her husband, thus prompting police to remove the children from her custody in hopes of pressuring her husband to turn himself in.
Jerusalem police last month issued an international arrest warrant against Elior Chen, a spiritual leader who is suspected of orchestrating the worst case of systematic child abuse in Israel's history.
Haaretz reported that Chen had fled the country with one of his disciples after the arrest of a Jerusalem mother, apparently another of his disciples, on suspicion she severely abused her eight children at Chen's bidding. The mother was indicted for allegedly burning her toddlers, making them eat feces and locking them in a suitcase for days at a time, among other charges.
Chen was planning to meet other members of his spiritual sect in the country to which he fled, who had not yet been arrested, and the group was apparently planning to hide there together.
The police hope that the arrest warrant will facilitate the extradition and apprehension of the fugitives.
During a search of Chen's home on Thursday, police found evidence that appears to link the spiritual leader to the abuse, including journals that document the violence.
The remand of the mother currently held in custody was extended Sunday until April 14.
Two of the mother's 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 remains in a coma. Police suspect that Chen's supporters also doused the children in hot and cold water and broke their bones with hammers and blows.
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 his disciple, Yosef Fischer, 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.
Elior Chen's father, Yaakov Chen, told Haaretz he did not know where his son or his son's family were 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."