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Amish women 'coerced into sex'

An Amish bishop accused of orchestrating hair-cutting attacks in Ohio coerced women at his settlement into having sex with him so he could turn them into better wives, one of the women told a court.

The woman said what started out as hugs turned into kisses and then sex, saying she resisted at first.

"He would say things like, 'I can't understand why you won't obey me, the other ladies can'," the woman said. "I always gave up. I was afraid not to."

Prosecutors say the alleged sexual "counselling" of married women shows the control Samuel Mullet had over followers at the Amish settlement he founded two decades ago.

The 16 people accused of carrying out the hair-cutting attacks last year all lived on Mullet's settlement in eastern Ohio near the West Virginia panhandle.

The US government contends that the hair cutting was motivated by a religious dispute between Mullet and other Amish bishops who had sought to limit his authority. Those accused of planning and taking part targeted the hair and beards of the Amish because of its spiritual significance in the faith, prosecutors said.

Mullet has denied any involvement. His defence lawyers had tried before the trial began to bar any evidence about the alleged sex "counselling." They argued that there was no proof of such sexual conduct and that mentioning it would be highly prejudicial.

US District Court judge Dan Polster told jurors after the woman took the stand that Mullet was not charged with any sex crimes and that they could only consider the evidence as it related to charges in the indictment.

The woman said her husband had a mental breakdown in the summer of 2008 and was in hospital when Mullet suggested that his trouble stemmed from dissatisfaction with his marriage.

The woman and her husband soon left the Amish settlement where they had raised their children and moved to Pennsylvania. "We just took our children and a few suitcases with our clothes," she said.

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