The Jerusalem District Court also ordered Chen to pay NIS 700,000 ($192,000) in damages to his victims.
Judge Yoram Noam wrote in the verdict that "the crimes Chen committed were committed together with others – group members – who congregated in his shadow and worshipped him. The defendant employed a reign of terror over the children which included violence, contempt, and degradation."
"The personal circumstances of the defendant, as well as his wife and children's place of residence abroad, are pushed aside before the public interest in a severe penalty," the judge wrote of his sentence.
Noam added that Chen and his followers had "caused serious injuries to some (of the children) and left the youngest mortally wounded and in a coma".
"The sentence must properly address the basic values of the defense of life and body in general and the preservation of the bodies and minds of helpless minors specifically, and so constitute a deterring, effective, individualistic and general message," the judge concluded.
"This is the most severe case of abuse I have ever seen," said Prosecutor Daniel Mor. "The verdict signifies an end to this affair after three years of investigations and trials. The punishment is appropriate for Elior Chen's crimes. His claims have all been refuted in the court's decision."
But Yaakov Chen, Elior's father, continued to insist upon his son's innocence. "The judge wrote what the press dictated to him," he said. "His only crime was that the crimes were committed at his house."
Rabbi Avraham Froelich, who represents the Eda Haredit, also defended the convict. "Chen is a naïve and delicate soul. The evidence proves he did nothing. This is a Dreyfus plot," he said.
Chen's attorney said the defense had arrived at the sentencing with low expectations. "Chen's right to a fair trial was trampled. He did not get to see the investigation materials or question witnesses," he said, adding that they intended to appeal to the Supreme Court.
Judge: Sentence sends deterring message (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
History of violence
The affair was revealed almost three years ago, when two brothers were taken to the hospital as a result of severe abuse. One of them was in a vegetative state, from which he has not recovered, and the other was seriously wounded.
Immediately after police began investigating, Chen fled Israel to Canada, and then Brazil. He was finally arrested and extradited to Israel.
An indictment against Chen was filed in 2009, citing instances of severe abuse by him and his followers of a group of eight siblings from Jerusalem.
Their mother, M, was also charged with abuse and has since been sentenced to five years in prison after expressing regret for the harming of her children. M. said during her trial that she had been stupid and innocent, and that Chen had succeeded in convincing her that her children were sick and that abuse was the cure.
A year later, in November 2010, the court convicted Chen of abusing a helpless minor, assaulting a minor, battery, and physical and emotional abuse.
Chen's followers have all been sentenced to 17-20 years in prison. "Chen conceived of and initiated the violent deeds and abuse of the children, and enlisted members of the group under his authority to join in his plan and carry out the deeds," the judge said in his decision.
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