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Amish hate crimes leader jailed in US

15:40 Sat Feb 9 2013
MSN NZ

The leader of an Amish splinter group has been sentenced to 15 years in federal prison for ordering his followers to forcibly shave the beards and hair of several members of the religious community in Ohio.

Samuel Mullet, 67, was convicted in September over the 2011 attacks, along with 15 co-defendants from his breakaway sect - including three of his sons.

The others received sentences of one to seven years in prison.

The case created an unwanted spotlight for the Amish, who are best recognised for their rejection of modern lifestyles and conveniences - many living without electricity or motorised vehicle.

Descended from German-speaking religious refugees who settled especially in Pennsylvania in the 18th century, Amish live modestly in rural communities in several US states, with some groups still speaking their ancestral dialect and dressing in plain, homespun garb.

Mullet and the other defendants were charged with terrorising their fellow believers with scissors and razors in a dispute over practices of their faith.

After marriage, Amish men may not cut their beards and women may not cut their hair, making long beards and hair symbols of faithfulness.

The case was the first hate crime trial in Ohio under a landmark 2009 law that expanded the federal government's powers to prosecute such cases.

To get the convictions, prosecutors had to convince jurors that the cutting of beards and hair was a religiously motivated hate crime, beyond a simple assault.

Mullet, who leads an Ohio group of about 120 followers splintered off from the main Amish community, instigated the attacks but did not participate.

He allegedly co-ordinated the attacks to punish other Amish believers for criticising him and ignoring him.

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