'Cursed' woman claims exorcism sex abuse

Brisbane Times, Australia/September 12, 2008

Sydney - Two men have been charged with more than 220 sex offences at prayer sessions of a western Sydney church.

Police say one of the men had claimed he could speak to angels and remove curses.

The men, aged 61 and 38, are highly regarded members of the Greek Orthodox and Coptic Orthodox communities, police say.

They are alleged to have committed the offences over a period of four years on a young woman who believed she was cursed.

Police allege the older man claimed to be a spiritual mentor who was able to speak to angels to remove curses and banish evil spirits.

They allege the victim believed she and her family had been cursed by a member of the Greek community practising black magic and that they would all suffer terrible consequences including death and illness unless the curse was removed.

The woman told police she attended many prayer sessions at various hotels between 2001 and 2005 where she was blindfolded and sexually assaulted.

It's alleged she paid the men between $500 and $1,000 for each prayer session and by 2005 had paid at least $70,000.

Fairfield Local Area Commander, Acting Superintendent Gary Bailey, said police could not rule out the possibility there had been other victims.

"Two extremely courageous women have already come forward with information which has led to the arrests of these two men," Supt Bailey said.

"We will allege these women have been the cruel prey of callous individuals who used religious fear to manipulate and abuse them for their sexual gratification and financial gain.

"Sexual offences are heinous but an offender who hides behind the cloak of religious respectability is particularly vile," Supt Bailey said.

"Our investigations are far from over and we cannot rule out the possibility of other victims and I would urge any woman or person, particularly in the Greek Orthodox or Coptic community, with any information to come forward.

"These two women have already shown tremendous strength and courage to overcome the embarrassment and shame they feel to contact police.

"For that they deserve to be acknowledged."

A 61-year-old man and a 38-year-old man were arrested at their homes this morning.

They were expected to appear at Burwood Local Court later today charged with 151 and 79 sexual offences, respectively.

Anyone with information is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000. Information can be given anonymously and will be treated confidentially, police say.

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