"He attacked the women and children, kept women locked in the shower for hours and took our paychecks," said a woman who was a member of a violent cult allegedly led by 56-year-old Munib Farhat in the Galilee community of Majd al-Krum.
Farhat was arrested on Tuesday by Northern District Police after a month-long investigation following a complaint by a 46 year-old member of the cult who managed to escape. He was remanded for eight days.
Police suspect the leader had ordered his followers to act violently toward their children, in the name of "proper" education. The violent cult consisted of 11 adults and 25 children.
The man is also accused of sexually assaulting several of the women in the group and abusing both the women and children. Among other things, the cult leader allegedly locked the children in the bathroom, smeared feces on their mouths and rationed their food. Farhat has denied the allegations.
"Farhat told us he was a religious man and could solve any financial, social and family-related problem," the woman who filed the complaint told Ynet. "He also convinced us to turn over our paychecks at the end of each month and said if we wanted to purchase anything we should ask him (for money)."
According to the woman, the cult leader opened a small store in his home "and he forced us to shop only there. Sometimes we would ask him for money to buy food for the house, and he would give us 50 shekels ($14) and tell us that was enough. He also never agreed to give the children any money. He stole our all of our funds."
The complainant's brother said she told him the abuse, assault and sexual exploitation went on for years.
The woman further told Ynet that "at first we believed (Farhat) and thought he wanted to help us, but everything changed over the past few years. He attacked women and children; forced them to clean the house and cultivate the land without any compensation. Any woman who objected was attacked and locked in the shower or stockroom for more than seven hours.
"He brutally attacked me several times – stepped on my neck, hit me all over by body and locked me up in the stockroom with the mice. When I screamed he threatened to murder me. I did not seek medical care because I was afraid he would hurt me if he found out," she recalled.
The woman said that as soon as she left the cult and complained against Farhat, he turned her family against her. "My husband and three children are no longer in touch with me and believe that the cult leader's way is the right one. I hope we will live together again – far away from this horrific story," the woman said.