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Israeli Cult Leader Charged With Enslavement

Sunday, 14 Feb 2010 10:03 PM

Alleged polygamist and cult leader Goel Ratzon was indicted in the Tel Aviv District Court Sunday morning on a litany of charges, including multiple counts of rape, sodomy and molestation of minors.

Ratzon, who was arrested in January, is also accused of defrauding his wives out of their money and manipulating them into serving as his slaves.

The indictment says Razon’s 21 wives were made to feel they were “required to serve [him] and fulfill all of his demands,” allegedly including sexual acts. It accuses Ratzon of using his standing and the women’s adulation to demand that some of them perform sexual acts on him.

The indictment describes a chilling account of Ratzon’s alleged deeds, including one instance where he allegedly forcibly inserted his fingers into a 17-year-old girl, and when she protested, told her “don’t worry, you’ll get used to it.” The indictment also details Ratzon’s abuse of a girl he allegedly molested almost daily for two years, starting when she was 15.

Before a remand hearing last Wednesday, Ratzon said he did not understand why he was under arrest since “stroking” minors did not constitute rape. He also claimed that he is being threatened by police interrogators.

The indictment presented Sunday details repeated threats Ratzon allegedly made to his wives in which he threatened to harm their health or that of their children if they did not obey his wishes.

“I have the power to save and the power to destroy. If you do things that I forbid then I will make sure you and your children are stricken with serious illnesses,” the indictment quotes one witness as saying Ratzon told her.

Ratzon also stands accused in the indictment of using different methods to strip the women of their personal identities, including forcing them to tattoo his name and image on their bodies, and requiring them to change their given names to ones of his choosing. The women were then reportedly required to break off all ties with their families and friends, and were not allowed to have any social life or connections whatsoever outside of the communal house. They were also allegedly subject to repeated verbal abuse and humiliation by Ratzon, in order to strip them of their self-respect and independence.

Ratzon also allegedly wielded absolute control over the women’s movements, allowing them to leave the house only with his approval and requiring them to report to him all excursions, except to their workplace. He also reportedly forbade them from wearing sunglasses when outside with him, so that he could follow their gaze at all times.

The women were allegedly forced to dress modestly, were not allowed to use television or Internet without his approval, and were forced to attend to Ratzon at all hours of the night whenever he desired.

The indictment also states that Ratzon required the children to line up and kiss his feet every time he entered the house, allegedly in order to reaffirm his superiority.

Ratzon is accused of demanding the women hand over their money to them, which the indictment alleges brought a number of the women to bankruptcy, including one who ran up a debt of NIS 400,000 funneling money to Ratzon.

The women were allegedly required to hand over their paychecks and their national insurance child allotments into a communal account that Ratzon exercised “absolute” control over.

Ratzon was led into the courthouse on Sunday flanked by two plainclothes officers from the Central Police Investigations Unit “Yamar.” Ratzon’s son Yigal stood at attention when his father entered the courtroom, until he was asked to take a seat.

Ratzon’s lawyer, Shlomtzion Gabbai-Mendelmann, asked the court to release her client from solitary confinement and asked that he be given the right to make phone calls. Prosecutor Dalia Abramoff warned the judge Ratzon might use those calling privileges to pass on messages in order to intimidate witnesses. The judge eventually ruled in favor of allowing Ratzon to makephone calls as long as they are monitored by Prison Services officials.

Prosecutor Dalia Abramoff asked the court to keep Ratzon in jail until the end of his trial. The judge called for an additional hearing on the requests to be held on March 11th and enacted a gag order on the investigation, which includes intimate details related to the witnesses.

Outside the courtroom on Sunday, Ratzon’s son Yigal criticized the court for not allowing him to make contact with his father, for whom he said the arrest has caused “great sorrow.” “I’ve been saying all along that I don’t believe any of these charges against my father, and I say it again today,” Yigal told reporters.

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Alleged polygamist and cult leader Goel Ratzon was indicted in the Tel Aviv District Court Sunday morning on a litany of charges, including multiple counts of rape, sodomy and molestation of minors.
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2010-03-14
Sunday, 14 Feb 2010 10:03 PM
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