Three former pastors on trial for assault and coercion in the name of God

9:46 min

Three former pastors in a small congregation of the Pentecostal movement went on trial Tuesday, accused of assault and coercion in a congregation that was marked by violence and punishment in the name of God.

To the outside world, the congregation has mainly been known for the drama of 2004, when a pastor was convicted of instigating his family's babysitter to kill his wife, telling her that it was the will of God.

But the events that are detailed in the charges of this trial took place 2014-16, over a decade after the murder that dominated the headlines back then.

One former pastor is charged with 14 cases of assault, but she denies all but one of the charges, admitting only to having slapped one male member of the congregation with an open hand. She agrees that there was violence in the congregation, but her lawyer said there was no intention of harming, more attempts to "wake" someone.

One of the male pastors has admitted to the crime (illegal coercion and assault) that he is charged with, while the other - who is charged with sexual exploitation of a person in a position of dependence - admits to having had a relationship with the 17-year-old girl, but denies any criminal charges.

Radio Sweden spoke to Rigmor Robèrt, medical doctor and psychotherapist, who says she reported the congregation to the police and social services several times after what she heard from members inside the congregation. She describes a kind of bubble where the members of the congregation gradually got used to things that the outside world would never accept as normal.