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Israeli cult leader convicted of sexual crimes

JERUSALEM: An Israeli cult leader alleged by prosecutors to have kept 21 wives under his spell for years was convicted on Monday of sexual crimes but acquitted of charges of enslavement.

The suspect, Goel Ratzon, 64, had denied the allegations, which prosecutors described as a “mind-boggling” saga of dominance and delusions of deity.

Ratzon, whose first name means “redeemer”, kept 21 wives and 38 children in various homes around Tel Aviv, according to the indictment.

A Tel Aviv court convicted him of sex offences that included rape and indecent assault over the indictment said was “many years”. Some of his daughters were among the victims, according to the verdict, distributed by the Justice Ministry.

Ratzon’s sentence will be handed down later.

Sporting shoulder-length grey hair and a white beard, Ratzon was seen by his wives as “omnipotent and possessing the powers of healing and destruction”, according to the charges.

But the court found him not guilty of holding people in conditions of slavery. Ratzon had argued that the women, many of whom had his name and portrait tattooed on their bodies, lived with him on their own accord. –Reuters

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