Trial opens for UK cult leader accused of rape, imprisonment
LONDON (AP) — The leader of a Maoist cult went on trial in London on Thursday accused of imprisoning and sexually assaulting his followers and abusing his own daughter in a secretive commune for 30 years.
Prosecutors said that 75-year-old Aravindan Balakrishnan, known as “Comrade Bala,” was a charismatic man who brainwashed his followers and led a small radical communist group in London in the 1970s. Prosecutors said the group’s membership soon dwindled to just six women, who were led to fear Balakrishnan as an “all powerful and all-seeing” figure.
“In order to bend them to his will, he used mental and physical dominance and violence, sexual degradation,” prosecutor Rosina Cottage told a London court. “In relation to one ... he controlled every sphere of her life to the extent that she was unable either emotionally or physically to leave his influence until she was 30 years old and ill with diabetes.”
In 2013, police released three women from a London house, saying they had been held against their will, cut off from the outside world and subjected to “emotional control” for decades. At the time, police described the case as the largest-ever case of “modern-day slavery” in Britain. They arrested Balakrishnan and his wife, who was released without charge soon after.
Cottage said Balakrishnan launched a series of sex attacks on two women, and beat and bullied his daughter, who was born into the cult and barely left the house.
“It doesn’t have to be by lock and key. It doesn’t have to be chained up,” she said. “Over time, the psychological and mental control was so strong over her that she could not exercise any independent choice at all.”
Court orders prohibit the naming of his alleged victims.
Balakrishnan denies several counts of indecent assault, four counts of rape, bodily harm, cruelty to a child under 16 and false imprisonment.