UK court convicts Maoist sect leader of rape

LONDON - A British court on Friday convicted a Maoist cult leader of raping two of his followers and imprisoning his own daughter for 30 years in the London commune that he ran.

Aravindan Balakrishnan, 75, known as Comrade Bala, was at the heart of a communist group in the 1970s.

The defendant was stone-faced as the guilty verdicts were read out but one of his former followers shouted: "You are sending an innocent man to prison. Shame on you!"

He "used psychological and sexual oppression and violence to force his followers into believing he was a god," said Baljit Ubhey of the Crown Prosecution Service, which pursued the case against him.

Balakrishnan came to Britain from Singapore in 1963 and enrolled at the London School of Economics.

The trial heard that he had brainwashed his followers and fathered a daughter with one of them in 1983.

The daughter, who has not been identified for legal reasons, was beaten and banned from going to school, singing nursery rhymes or making friends.

She told the court that her father allowed her to read Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings after her 19th birthday because he believed he represented heroes in both novels - Harry and Aragorn.

But when she read the books she said she was instead inspired by her own likeness to Harry and Frodo, both little people fighting an "invincible dark lord".

She fled in 2013 aged 30 with the help of a charity, and Balakrishnan was charged on multiple counts of violence against her and his followers.

"I felt like a caged bird with clipped wings, like a fly in a spider's web," she told London's Southwark Crown Court earlier.

Balakrishnan was at the height of his influence in the 1970s but his group later dwindled to six women including his wife Chandra.

Balakrishnan convinced followers he controlled the sun, moon, wind and fire. They believed he had a mind control machine monitoring their thoughts.

The two women he sexually abused were "cowed into submission" and forced into "deliberately degrading and humiliating" sex acts, prosecutor Rosina Cottage said during the trial.

After raping one woman, he told her he was "purifying her", the prosecutor said.