A cult leader who claims he is the reincarnation of Jesus Christ has been detained for two months in pretrial custody by a Russian court.
Former traffic policeman Sergei Torop, 59, known as Vissarion, is suspected of using physical and psychological violence against a number of followers.
Two other leaders of his Church of the Last Testament, Vadim Redkin, a former rock star, and Vladimir Vedernikov, have also been placed in pre-trial detention.
The trio are accused of using ‘psychological violence’ causing some followers ‘serious harm to their health’.
Torop is a former Red Army conscript who claimed he was reborn in 1990 as the literal reincarnation of the son of God.
‘Torop will be placed in custody for two months, until November 22,’ said Judge Alla Veselykh at a court in Novosibirsk, Siberia’s largest city.
The group’s leaders are accused of using their followers’ money to make profit.
They face up to 12 years in jail if convicted.
The wispy-haired ‘Jesus’, aged 59, was held on Tuesday in a military-style raid on his Sun City religious headquarters in a Siberian village 2,600 miles east of Moscow.
A picture emerged today showing a suicide note and a hangman’s rope – seen as part of the evidence alleging his followers were harmed.
Torop today rejected the accusations against him which were itemised by the Russian Investigative Committee, equivalent of the FSB.
He questioned the words of the alleged victims, claiming he had never seen some of them.
‘I have never seen one of them and I saw another one 15 years ago. In the past three years, three of these people have been constantly creating some difficulties and lodging their complaints,’ he said.
Redkin called for human rights organisations to help the sect.
He claimed the complainers had ‘mental disorders’ and should not be believed by law enforcement.
‘I live in the taiga, on the land,’ he said.
‘There I have a wife and three small children, underaged children. It will now be very very hard for them.’
The operation to detain Torop involved four helicopters and dozens of heavily armed officers from the Russian National Guard, a force under the command of Vladimir Putin, the FSB security service and the Investigative Committee.
Videos released by sect members showed masked special forces Spetsnaz officers with combat machine guns at the group’s territory in remote Kuraginsky district of Krasnoyarsk region in Siberia.
Other officers were in plain clothes.
The group – who are banned from smoking and alcohol – has been in Siberia for years and it is unclear why the Russian authorities acted now in an early morning raid.
He claims to have 5,000 followers of whom several hundred live in wooden huts in the remote ‘Sun City’ camp at Petropavlovka, some 2,600 miles east of Moscow.
One estimate said there were 90 families at the site raided today by the authorities.
Other followers of the ‘messiah’ live in villages nearby.
He heads what is known as the Church of the Last Testament, and he has written a ten volume ‘sequel to the Bible’.
Three years ago the cult leader told the BBC: ‘We have a school of noble maidens here.
‘We’re preparing girls to become future wives, future brides for worthy men.
‘She has to understand not to rise above the man, not to be proud of her independence but to be shy, inconspicuous and weak.’
He is reported to have two wives with six children.
He rejected his first wife, marrying a 19 year old who had lived with him since the age of seven.
He lives in a comfortable chalet while his followers reside in wooden huts in one of Russia’s coldest regions with temperatures sinking to minus 50C in winter.
Torop had an awakening after he was fired as a night shift traffic cop in the Siberian town of Minusinsk, he has claimed.
God had sent him to Earth to teach mankind about the evils of war and the havoc we were wreaking on the environment, he claimed.
The cult leader abolished Christmas, replacing it with the anniversary of the date of his own first sermon, August 18.
He claims that Mary, mother of Jesus, is his own mother.
Official records show his biological mother was called Nadyezhda.
He has followers in Germany and several other European countries.