Two Russians Convicted for Whipping Children at Sectarian Camp

A Moscow regional court has convicted two Russians for organizing a utopian community near Moscow in which children were whipped when they disobeyed the alleged sect’s rules.

The court gave Vladimir Belanenko and Alexei Merkulov a one-year suspended sentence and a two-year prison term respectively, the Russian Information Agency Novosti reported.

The two were found guilty under article 239 of the Russian Criminal Code, which prohibits forming organizations infringing on a person’s rights or privacy. Charges of torture against Belanenko, meanwhile, were dropped.

Belanenko and Merkolov created a commune on the territory of a former factory in suburban Moscow in early 2000, calling themselves the “Poeticized Union for Developing Social Happiness”, or PORTOS, with the aim of creating an ideal society.

Children at the commune or camp were subjected to unorthodox forms of discipline: they were forced to write poetry and keep an “outer conscience” diary. For the minutest misconduct the children were lashed.

The organization lured teenagers by promising them to pay for their education and a high-paying job in the future.