Officials Study Recordings, Books In Search Of Evidence Against Cult
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) _ Prosecutors studied video and computer recordings, books and pamphlets Saturday in a search for evidence against members of the Family, a sex- oriented religious cult.
But officials said testimony by former members alleging sexual abuse of minors, incest and prostitution offer the strongest evidence against the cult, founded in California in 1969 and now scattered throughout the world.
Seventeen adults, 12 of them charged with conspiracy to kidnap and conceal children, and more than 100 children, ranging from infants to teen-agers, remained in custody.
Reports following nearly a dozen police raids on Buenos Aires area cult residences Wednesday have placed the number of detained children as high as 268.
Court officials have refused to release names and explained discrepancies by saying early counts were based on passports. They said many children have multiple nationalities and passports and were counted more than once.
The Buenos Aires newspaper Pagina 12 quoted Federal Court Judge Roberto Marquevich on Saturday as saying that medical tests so far had failed to show any children had been physically or sexually abused.
Court officials said Marquevich would begin interrogation of the 17 adults Monday.
Thirteen adults were released from custody on Friday. One, Enrique Lacuesta, an Uruguayan citizen, told reporters that prosecutors couldn’t prove any of the charges and accused police of planting pornographic video cassettes during the raids.
″We are strictly forbidden, under penalty of excommunication, to so much as touch a minor in a sexual manner,″ Lacuesta said.
Confiscated material included 280 video cassettes, audio cassettes, computer diskettes and extensive printed and graphic material, police said.
Former cult members have charged that members were forced to prostitute themselves to attract new members and to help pay bills.
″Sex is the fundamental and most twisted doctrine that the community has,″ former cult member Lizzi Romanone told local news agencies. Female members were obliged to ″have relations and practice free love as a form of sacred prostitution.″
″Whenever the community had financial trouble, a girl would go out and come back with some money,″ she said.