'Prophet Elijah' accused of coercing followers

Amsterdam, Holland — A spiritual leader, who refers to himself as Prophet Elijah or Elias and ordered his followers to prepare for Armageddon, faces jail in the Netherlands.

A public prosecutor asked a court in Dordrecht to sentence H. van G., 69, to 12 months in jail, with six months suspended.

Van G., leader of the Efraim community in the Dutch town of Heinenoord faces a rarely used charge of coercion for allegedly stopping one of his followers getting adequate medical treatment for breast cancer. She died.

People who have broken away from the cult claim he used psychological pressure to persuade her she was healed by the power of faith. Her husband is still a member of the group and he has contradicted this suggestion.

The prosecution has further claimed that G. coerced another member in paying over EUR 300,000 to the religious group.

'Prophet Elijah' is also accused of slandering former members of the group on his website.

The self-proclaimed prophet announced in 2001 that the end of the world was approaching. He suggested his followers would be taken into the hereafter as "brides of Jesus".

Some cancelled rental contracts or sold their homes and took their children out of school to prepare for Armageddon.

The cancer patient cancelled an operation, allegedly after the leader claimed he had healed her by the laying on of hands and prayer. He also allegedly told her she had to remain "whole" for God.

When the awaited ascension to heaven failed to materialise in 2001, the woman confronted the 'prophet'. Her faith in the Efraim community lapsed and she underwent the operation.

The woman also got divorced from her husband and lodged a criminal complaint against the cult leader. She died of cancer in 2004.