Brazil faith healer surrenders to police

Brazilian "spiritual healer" Joao Teixeira de Faria escorted by two supporters on 12 December, 2018Image copyright
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Brazilian “spiritual healer” Joao Teixeira de Faria, pictured with supporters, has turned himself in to police

A Brazilian faith healer accused of sexually abusing more than 300 women has handed himself in to police, local media report.

Joao Teixeira de Faria, known as “John of God”, was declared a fugitive on Saturday after missing a deadline to surrender to the authorities.

The cascade of claims against him began earlier in December, when a dozen women said the self-styled spiritual healer had abused them at his clinic.

Mr Faria denies the allegations.

The medium is based in the central town of Abadiania, west of the capital Brasilia, but has followers worldwide.

How did the surrender play out?

Brazil’s O Globo newspaper reports that the medium withdrew 35 million reais ($8.9m; £7m) from several bank accounts on Wednesday – convincing authorities that he could be planning to flee Brazil, or hide the money in case of future compensation claims.

Authorities responded with an arrest warrant on Friday.

On Sunday, mobile phone footage broadcast on Brazil’s Globo TV showed Mr Faria, looking weary, getting out of a car and surrendering to police on a dirt road in Abadiania.

He was transported to police headquarters in Goiania, the capital of Goias state.

The medium can be heard on video saying that when he heard the abuse allegations “I surrendered to divine justice – and, as promised, I now place myself in the hands of earthly justice”.

His lawyer, Alberto Toron, said he would file an appeal on Monday. He said he hoped Mr Faria might be held under house arrest, instead of in prison.

How did the allegations start?

Last week a Dutch photographer, Zahira Leeneke Maus, told Globo TV that Mr Faria had manipulated her into performing sex acts and then raped her.

Nine Brazilian women, who remained anonymous, also told the channel that the medium abused them on the premise of transferring his “cleansing” energy.

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Brazilian TV channels broadcast the medium’s arrival at a police station, a day after he was officially ruled a fugitive

O Globo newspaper later said it had spoken to two more women with similar allegations.

The 76-year-old’s representatives said he “vehemently rejects [allegations of] any improper practice during his treatments”.

Mr Faria, who is not a medical doctor, has previously been fined and jailed for operating without a licence.

US TV host Oprah Winfrey travelled to Brazil in 2013 to meet him, and witnessed him performing so-called “psychic surgery” at his clinic.

According to ABC News, Mr Faria claims that the spirits of more than 30 doctors and other entities can enter his body, and that they perform the healings.

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