US & Canada

Four held over Amish hair-cutting attacks denied bail

Amish Bishop Samuel Mullet 10 October 2011
Image caption Samuel Mullet has previously denied ordering the attacks

Four men accused of carrying out hair-cutting attacks in the Amish community have been denied bail, a US federal magistrate has ruled.

A total of seven men have been charged with hate crimes following the assaults in the state of Ohio earlier this year.

The other three are due to be in court for similar hearings on Friday.

The men are accused of being part of a breakaway group which forcibly cut beards and hair off fellow Amish women and men following a feud.

'Forcibly restrained'

The sect's leader, Bishop Samuel Mullet, his two sons Johnny and Daniel Mullet and son-in-law Emanuel Schrock were in court on Wednesday for the ruling.

Authorities say the men carried out attacks in September, October and November outside Bergholtz in eastern Ohio.

They are accused of carrying out "religiously motivated physical assaults" and causing injury by use of a dangerous weapon, according to an affidavit from the Department of Justice.

It is alleged that they "forcibly restrained multiple Amish men and cut off their beards and head hair with scissors and battery-powered clippers", according to the Department of Justice.

The Amish believe the Bible instructs women to grow hair long and men to grow beards and stop shaving once married, so the incidents are viewed as particularly offensive.

'Chicken coop punishment'

The affidavit says the feud has been simmering since 2005 when Samuel Mullet excommunicated about eight families who had moved away from Bergholz because of disagreements over his religious leadership.

Community elders later overturned Mr Mullet's decision.

It is alleged that Mr Mullet had imposed "extreme physical punishments" on those in the community who defied him, including making them sleep in a chicken coop for days at a time.

Levi Miller, one of the acused, was himself once kept in the chicken coop for 12 days, according to the affidavit.

It also says that Samuel Mullet had been taking married women from the Bergholz clan into his home so that he could "cleanse them of the devil with acts of sexual intimacy".

The Amish, a tiny Christian community also known as the Plain People, generally shun modern conveniences such as electricity, televisions and cars.

It is estimated that around 61,000 Amish live in Ohio, mainly in rural communities to the south and east of Cleveland - second only to the Amish in Pennsylvania.

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