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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 March 2007, 03:56 GMT
PNG cult head faces murder charge
By Phil Mercer
BBC News, Sydney

Tribal people at the Goroka festival in Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea is a diverse, but mainly Christian nation
A cult leader in Papua New Guinea known as "Black Jesus" is facing at least 30 charges of murder and rape.

Police have alleged that Steven Tari killed and ate three young women he recruited as sex slaves.

The former bible student was arrested after almost two years on the run but has been too ill to appear in court.

He said he was the "true Christ" and promised his followers great wealth and redemption. Among his disciples were allegedly dozens of sex slaves.

The cult leader was said have called them his "flower girls".

Police in Papua New Guinea have claimed that three young women were raped, murdered and then eaten by Steven Tari in his jungle hide-out.

After being on the run, he was captured by a group of villagers and was apparently beaten so badly before being handed over to the police that he has been too unwell to appear in court.

In the regional capital, Madang, hundreds of people gathered outside the police station to get a glimpse of Mr Tari.

He had studied to become a Lutheran pastor but disappeared from his theological college after disputing the Bible's teachings.

He turned up in the mountains surrounding Madang wearing flowing white robes and surrounded by an army of devotees. There were allegations of cannibalism and sacrificial killings, which led to Mr Tari's arrest two years ago. He then absconded and melted away into the jungle.

Papua New Guinea has a strong Christian tradition but witchcraft and superstition remain powerful forces in some parts of the country.

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13 May 05 |  Asia-Pacific
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14 Dec 04 |  Asia-Pacific
Country Profile: Papua New Guinea
09 Jul 03 |  Country profiles
Timeline: Papua New Guinea
19 May 03 |  Country profiles

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