St-Jerome, Que. -- The Crown has withdrawn all assault and sex charges brought against the leader of the Apostles of Infinite Love and three of the sect's followers.
Jean-Gaston Tremblay, 72, whose supporters believe that he's the real pope, was facing nearly two dozen charges for incidents dating from the late 1960s and early 70s.
The charges, laid after a 1999 police raid on the religious compound's sprawling property, were all dropped Wednesday. Two women also were charged with assault and another man was charged with assault and sexual assault.
The Crown told the court it couldn't go ahead because there were too many problems with the evidence about the alleged abuse of seven boys and a girl. Defence lawyer Michel Massicotte said outside court the case is now closed.
He said lawyers for the Quebec Justice Department knew they couldn't win the case and did the right thing. "They weren't there to do us any favours. I think they did their duty," he said.
Tremblay, alias Pere Jean-Gregoire de la Trinite, wasn't on the property at the time of the April 14, 1999, police raid.
Children ranging in age from four to 14 were removed from the compound. The bearded sect leader turned himself in to police two weeks later.