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Polygamous cult leader convicted of multiple rape charges

Self-styled guru Goel Ratzon, 64, who had as many as 32 ‘wives’ and fathered at least 49 children, cleared of slavery count

Cult leader Goel Ratzon in court in 2010 (photo credit: Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)
Cult leader Goel Ratzon in court in 2010 (photo credit: Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

Goel Ratzon, the leader of a polygamous cult whose arrest shocked the nation several years ago, was found guilty on multiple sexual offense charges by the Tel Aviv District Court Monday morning, but acquitted of a charge of sexually enslaving one of his victims.

Ratzon, 64, was discovered — as the result of a TV report and an ensuing police investigation — to be presiding over a harem in Tel Aviv of some 21 women, some of whom had entered into a relationship with him while still teenagers. Ratzon is believed to have had up to 32 “wives” starting in 1991. He has also fathered at least 49 children, although some media sources estimate more than 60 children were involved in his cult.

He was arrested in 2010 and has remained incarcerated ever since. His sentence is to be handed down at a later date, and it is expected that he will be slapped with a lengthy term in prison for his crimes.

Ratzon, who presented himself as a spiritual guru, was accused of multiple counts of sexual offenses, including rape, sodomy, sex with a minor, assault and fraud. He was acquitted of holding one of his victims in sexual slavery against her will.

The woman, who said she had been “a slave” for 12 years, was incensed at Ratzon’s acquittal on the slavery charges and said that he “won,” accusing the state of “abandoning us.”

Another of the victims, who had been with Ratzon for 24 years, said he did “terrible things to us… he burned me, not leaving even a little bit.”

Following Ratzon’s arrest, the fate of his former “wives” and offspring became an issue in itself, as the state found that the women and children were unable to support themselves and had been traumatized by their experiences. A 2011 Haaretz report noted that the group collectively had received millions of shekels in aid, but were still in “dire straits.”

At least one of Ratzon’s children, Yigal Ratzon, has maintained his father’s innocence and on Monday expressed satisfaction over his father’s acquittal of the slavery charges.

Ratzon himself has maintained that he has done nothing wrong, and famously said after his arrest that “petting young girls wasn’t rape.”

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