Photo: Mennonite Women
Seven members of a Protestant sect in Bolivia have been sentenced to 25 years each in prison for raping some 100 women in an agrarian commune, the judge and prosecutors told the press.
An eighth man was sentenced to 12.5 years in prison for providing a narcotic that the men sprayed to render the women unconscious before raping them in their dormitories, said Judge Luis Enrique Perez.
“The victims were raped in a repeated manner. Among them, there were adults, children and elderly women,” prosecutor Freddy Perez was quoted as saying by El Dia newspaper. Records indicate that the men sprayed a substance derived from the belladonna plant normally used to anaesthetize cows through bedroom windows at night, sedating entire families.
They then raped the women and girls. The youngest victim was nine years old.
The eight Mennonite men, aged between 18 and 45, were sentenced during a closed hearing this week at Palmasola prison in the Santa Cruz region.
They were arrested in June 2009 when an investigation was launched after one of the victims awoke while being attacked.
The prosecutor said a ninth alleged accomplice was still at large.
Mennonites are orthodox Protestants who reject wealth and power and adhere to a pacifist philosophy. They live, like the Amish, in isolated communities that accept varying degrees of integration with modern society. Its members move around by horse-drawn buggy and dress in traditional Mennonite dress.
After fleeing religious persecution in Europe in the 19th century, they settled first in the United States but spread to South America, where up to 40,000 Mennonites live today in agrarian colonies in Paraguay and Bolivia.
Short documentary on Monnonites sect in Santa Cruz, Bolivia