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Former NI woman was among cult members allegedly brainwashed by its charismatic leader

By Kate Ferguson

The charismatic leader of a Maoist cult sexually assaulted two of his followers and imprisoned his own daughter in the commune for 30 years, a court has heard.

Aravindan Balakrishnan (75), known as Comrade Bala, carried out a "brutal" campaign of "violence" and "sexual degradation" against the women over several decades, jurors heard.

Prosecutor Rosina Cottage QC told London's Southwark Crown Court that Balakrishnan was a charismatic man who "brainwashed" his followers.

He kept them as psychological prisoners so they believed he was "all-powerful and all-seeing", and subjected them to serious abuse, jurors heard.

One of the women alleged to have been held against her will in the commune is originally from Northern Ireland.

Ms Cottage said: "This case concerns the brutal and calculated manipulation by one man to subjugate women under his control. In order to bend them to his will he used mental and physical dominance and violence, sexual degradation, and in relation to one, his daughter, he controlled every sphere of her life to the extent that she was unable either emotionally or physically to leave his influence until she was 30 years old and ill with diabetes."

The court heard that in the 1970s Balakrishnan was at the helm of a communist group known as the Workers Institute and based in Acre Lane in Brixton, south London.

Beguiled by his charisma and radical politics, a number of people became his followers and committed to his plan to "overthrow the fascist state" - as he saw Britain, jurors heard.

But as time went by his political influence "waned" and the group dwindled until just six women were left.

They became so "dominated and brainwashed" by him they believed he was God-like and "was all powerful and all-seeing" jurors heard.

Ms Cottage said: "He said that he had magical powers and was going to overthrow all governments and become leader of the world. He said that he had a mind control machine that monitored their thoughts."

It was in this all-consuming atmosphere of paranoia, fear and violence that he forced two of the women into having sex with him, it is claimed.

His daughter, who he had with one of his followers Sian Davies, was kept a prisoner in her own home, jurors heard.

She was beaten, bullied, banned from going to school or playing with friends, and barely left the house, it is alleged.

Ms Cottage said: "She was hidden from the outside world, and it kept from her, except as a tool with which to terrify her into subjugation."

Ms Cottage said that Bala imprisoned his daughter until she finally escaped with the help of a charity at the age of 30.

She said: "It doesn't have to be by lock and key. It doesn't have to be chained up."

As the girl got older she confided in her diaries about her resentment towards her father.

She wrote: "The day I escape from the prison my father has created will be the day my life really begins."

Bala preyed on young women, and his Communist commune evolved into a "cult of Bala" where paranoia and fear became the order of the day, it is alleged.

Balakrishnan, of Enfield, north London, denies seven counts of indecent assault and four counts of rape against two women during the 1970s and 1980s.

He also denies three counts of ABH, cruelty to a child under 16 and false imprisonment.

None of his alleged victims can be named for legal reasons.

The trial continues.

Belfast Telegraph


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