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Faith healer back working after jail for child rape

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16:35 CET+01:00
British faith healer Mervyn Johnson, recently released from jail, participated last week in a healing session in Västerås in central Sweden just three years after he was convicted of sexually abusing several women and children.

Johnson, 63, was found guilty in 2007 of abusing seven women, including two girls under the age of 15. He was also convicted of raping one of the girls when she was 14 years old.

"These girls would be completely devastated if they knew he was working again. The wounds they sustained will never heal," said Kerstin Zaring from the crime victims support group (Brottsofferjouren) in Karlstad.

Zaring cared for several of Johnson's victims and witnessed first hand the power he wielded over women active in the spiritualist community, many of whom testified in his defence at the trial.

"I was extremely surprised by how many continued to support him. They believed in healing and they believed in him," she told The Local.

"I'm really concerned to hear that he's active again," she added.

The UK-based International Spiritualist Federation (ISF) severed all connections to its disgraced former president in September 2008, more than a year after his sentence for child rape.

The ISF also broke off relations with the 'Dragonfly' (Trollsländan) Spiritualist Association in Västerås, 100km west of Stockholm. The Västerås group, now run as an independent association, has remained steadfast in its belief that Johnson was wrongly convicted. As such, chairperson Helena Axelsson was delighted for the recently released 63-year-old to participate in a healing session last week.

"We've never changed our position. You journalists always portray things in a certain way while claiming to be objective. But not everybody who is convicted in Sweden is actually guilty," she told The Local.

Värmland District Court and the Court of Appeals both found Johnson guilty after hearing the testimonies of his victims, who fell victim to sexual abuse after they were lured to various different locations in central and western Sweden on the pretext of having their souls healed.

Using a method known as "trance healing", Johnson claimed to channel spirits through an ancient Chinese doctor called Mister Lu.

Johnson, also know as Mervyn Wright, selected the women on the basis of their "special energies". When he got them to the treatment room, he requested them to remove their clothes in order to avoid "blocking" contact with the spirit world, the courts heard.

In order to ward off the women's protests he threatened them with the onset of a range of deadly illnesses.

The offences took place between 2001 and 2005.

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