A South Korean doomsday cult leader has been sentenced to six years in prison for detaining her followers in Fiji and subjecting them to violence and barbaric rituals.
Shin Ok-ju, founder of the Grace Road Church, convinced her followers to move to Fiji in 2014, claiming they would be safe there from imminent natural disasters.
Once they arrived, their passports were confiscated and many of them were allegedly subjected to beatings and brutal rituals purportedly aimed at driving out evil spirits. Shin was arrested last July.
Some followers, who escaped the Fiji compound, told journalists that those who attempted to leave the church were subjected to severe public beatings known as “ground thrashing”.
“The accused has absolute authority over the followers and all criminal acts including ground thrashing were unable to be carried out without her directions. Her responsibility is very heavy,” the Anyang sub-court of the Suwon District Court, in a province neighbouring the South Korean capital, said in a statement on Monday.
The District Court spokeswoman, Judge Kang Yun-hye, said five other church officials were also meted punishment, ranging from a suspended sentence to 42 months in prison, she said.
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