Sect elder on sex charges in New Zealand

Wellington, New Zealand - A 72-year-old elder of the Exclusive Brethren religious sect appeared in court on Tuesday on charges of sex offences against four female members, some going back more than half a century.

The man entered no plea at the Nelson District Court on six charges of indecent assault and one of inducing a girl to perform an indecent act on him, the Nelson Evening Mail reported.

The offences were alleged to have occurred between 1951 and 1985 and two of the victims were said to be aged five to 10 at the time.

The defendant's name was temporarily suppressed when his lawyer appealed the judge's ruling that he be identified to protect other members of the sect, which claims 7 500 members in New Zealand, although only 2 316 nominated it as their religious affiliation in last year's census.

He was remanded on bail until August 14 but ordered to surrender his passport.