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Indian-origin Maoist cult leader found guilty of rape in UK

December 04, 2015 20:07 IST

A 75-year-old Indian-origin Maoist cult leader was on Friday found guilty of rape, child cruelty and falsely imprisoning his daughter for 30 years by a British court.

Aravindan Balakrishnan arrives at Southwark Crown Court in London, Britain. Balakrishnan is charged with false imprisonment and rape. Photograph: Toby Melville/ Reuters

Kerala-born Aravindan Balakrishnan, who led a secretive Maoist commune in south London from 1975 to 2013 after emigrating from Singapore, has been accused of raping female followers and imprisoning his own daughter for 30 years after brainwashing them into believing he was an all-powerful and all-seeing leader. He was referred to as "Comrade Bala".

Balakrishnan, who faces life sentence when he is sentenced on Monday, was found guilty of most of the 16 charges brought against him at a Southwark Crown Court trial on Friday.

He denied the charges and told the jury that he was "the focus of competition" between "jealous" women who made sexual advances on him.

"There was no force involved, there was no deception involved," he said, claiming his alleged rape victim, who cannot be named, "was extremely competitive" with another follower Sian Williams with whom he admitted having an affair in the commune.

The verdicts follow a two-year police investigation into a case which Scotland Yard detectives described as "completely unique".

Balakrishnan's daughter, who cannot be named, spent her entire life until the age of 30 effectively imprisoned in the commune ruled by her father. She escaped with two other women from a house in Peckford Place, Brixton, sparking a police probe during which two more of his victims came forward.

A British woman, now 64, said she was inside the cult from 1979 to 1989 while a Malaysian woman said she was involved from 1977 to 1992. Both alleged that Balakrishnan beat, raped and sexually assaulted them.

Balakrishnan established the Workers' Institute of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought at Acre Lane in Brixton, south London in 1975 and turned it into a secretive cult in which he led a small group of no more than 10 women in what he believed was preparation for China to take over the world and create "an international dictatorship of the proletariat".

Balakrishnan faced 16 charges including rape, sexual assault and assault of two women and wrongful imprisonment and child cruelty in respect of his daughter, who was born in the secretive commune and only escaped aged 30 having lived in almost total isolation for all of her life. Balakrishnan also told a jury that his political activities were motivated by British colonial "cruelty" where he was brought up in Singapore.

He explained how he came to Britain from Singapore in 1963 to study at the London School of Economics and believed "the whole of Britain, the British parliament were basically misleading people" with what he described as "sugar-coated bullets of the bourgeoisie".

Balakrishnan said the British state was "passing off  fascism as democracy". He said he was born in a village in Kerala and when he was eight, he moved with his mother to join his father who was working in Singapore.

He attended school and university in the British colony, where he got a bachelor of arts degree and was politically active as a "revolutionary socialist".

In 1976, when he set up the cult, he said, "Britain was attacking and destroying so many people not just in Malaya but in so many parts of the world. There were British colonies which were being treated in an extremely bad way and in Africa, under the name of democracy."

He and seven others established the commune, where there was a rota for cooking and cleaning but Bala did nothing domestically. The comrades would only be allowed to leave the centre in pairs, for their safety, Balakrishnan said. 

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