Cult held me captive for six months

Student saw pals brainwashed

Sunday Mail (England)/March 9, 2002
By Brendan Mcginty

A student yesterday revealed how a cult held him prisoner for six months in Denmark.

Martin Lewis said he was hit "for a joke" by a cult leader and watched friends being brainwashed and mentally and physically abused.

He signed up for Humana - which claims to be a charity endorsed by UNICEF - to help some of Africa's poorest people.

But when he got to their volunteer centre in Julesminde, Martin, 29, was put in a shared dormitory, constantly watched and sent out to sell newspapers and roses on the streets.

He said: "When I got home, it was like I had escaped from prison. I want to warn others off this organisation."

He spoke out after the Sunday Mail revealed they were recruiting here.

Charities linked to Humana in Britain collect up to £2million a year and their mysterious leader Amdi Petersen, who hasn't been seen in Denmark for 22 years, was arrested on fraud charges.

Martin, from Airdrie, joined the cult last July, after replying to a newspaper ad and attending a meeting in Glasgow.

He said: "I paid a £140 enrolment fee and they told me to go to Demark, where we would prepare to go to Africa. I couldn't believe what I found. We were in an old hospital with crumbling ceilings and missing windows.

"It was like hell living there. We could lock doors in shared dorms from the inside but Humana staff had master keys and constantly came to check on us.

"We were told we would learn health care and construction but instead there were constant meetings, cleaning of the so-called school and basically begging.

"If anybody had any complaints, staff would keep repeating their replies over and over again in front of the group."

He was worried when friends who were cynical about the cult's aims became dedicated followers. "The leaders wore them down and kept repeating these mantras," he said. "We were in five or six meetings a day."

He was also hit several times "for a joke" by school principal Rene Schultz.

Martin said the group ran a school for problem children and he was given two to take on to the streets.

He was told he wasn't making enough money and asked to hitch-hike to Austria, to work in Humana's "sorting office." He made it to Hamburg, Germany, where his parents sent him money to come home.

A spokesman at the Humana school said the principal was unavailable for comment.

How They Recruit

Students like Martin Lewis are lured to join Humana with promises of exciting world travel to outposts throughout Europe and Africa.

The group hand out professionally-produced leaflets showing young people sailing and working with computers.

A student who attended a meeting said: "You can see why some people in their early 20s would be attracted. But once you scratch beneath the surface the truth is very different."

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