Four former members of the Seventh Day Adventists, a US-based Protestant church, went on trial in France Monday for the kidnapping and torture of a 19-year-old woman during an exorcism. The incident took place in 2011 in Grigny, a suburb of Paris, when police entered an apartment and found the woman tied to a mattress in the attitude of Jesus Christ on the cross. The woman, identified only as Antoinette, an émigré from the Cameroun, was in shock and showed signs of recent beatings as well as emaciation and dehydration. According to her testimony, she had been bound to the mattress for a week and given only a few sips of oil and water during that time.
Three men and one woman, all of French Caribbean origin, have been charged with kidnapping, acts of torture and barbarism. One of the men, Eric Deron, was the victim’s former boyfriend. The others are his mother, Lise-Michelle Babin, and two men, Philippe Grego and Lionel Fremor. The prosecutors claimed that Deron has delusions of being a prophet on a divine mission. According to testimony by the accused assailants, Deron organized the exorcism after the victim allegedly leapt upon him while shouting incoherently. All four denied committing any acts of violence and claim the victim consented to the exorcism.
From the AFP:
Their lawyer, Jacques Bourdais, said the four had acted in good faith. "To them, she was possessed, that is why they did not call a doctor. You call a doctor when someone is sick, when someone is possessed you exorcise them," Bourdais told AFP.
Bourdais also told the court that the victim was very much in love with Deron and that she and all four of the accused shared strong religious convictions and a thorough understanding of biblical texts.
The victim met the accused several years before the alleged assault through the Seventh Day Adventists, which has 13,000 members in France. The Adventists claim that the assailants were expelled from the Church a year before the attack and that their teachings don’t include that kind of exorcism.
The trial is expected to end on Friday.
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