Cult leader "abused followers in brutal campaign of degradation"
The charismatic leader of a Maoist cult sexually assaulted two of his followers and imprisoned his own daughter in the commune for 30 years, a court has heard.
Aravindan Balakrishnan, 75, known as Comrade Bala, carried out a "brutal" campaign of "violence" and "sexual degradation" against the women over several decades, jurors heard.
Prosecutor Rosina Cottage QC told London's Southwark Crown Court that, in his youth, Balakrishnan was a charismatic man who brainwashed his followers.
He kept them as psychological prisoners so they believed he was "all-powerful and all-seeing", and subjected them to serious abuse, jurors heard.
Ms Cottage said: "This case concerns the brutal and calculated manipulation by one man to subjugate women under his control.
"In order to bend them to his will, he used mental and physical dominance and violence, sexual degradation, and in relation to one ... he controlled every sphere of her life to the extent that she was unable either emotionally or physically to leave his influence until she was 30 years old and ill with diabetes."
Balakrishnan, of Enfield, north London, sat in the dock wearing a blue anorak and thick spectacles, and listened to the accusations against him through a hearing loop.
He denies seven counts of indecent assault and four counts of rape against two women during the 1970s and 1980s.
He also denies three counts of actual bodily harm, cruelty to a child under the age of 16 and false imprisonment.
None of his alleged victims can be named for legal reasons.
The court heard that, in the 1970s, Balakrishnan was at the helm of a communist group known as the Workers Institute and based in Acre Lane in Brixton, south London.
Beguiled by his charisma and radical politics, a number of people became his followers and committed to his plan to "overthrow the fascist state" - as he saw Britain, jurors heard.
But, as time went by, his political influence "waned" and the group dwindled until just six women were left.
Ms Cottage said: "One was his wife Chandra, but she and the others had all been so dominated and brainwashed to the extent that they believed that he was all powerful and all-seeing.
"The atmosphere within the collective was controlled by the defendant and his moods. Each woman lived a life of violence, fear, isolation and confinement."
He launched a series of sex attacks on two of the women.
His daughter, who was born into the cult, was beaten, bullied, banned from going to school or playing with friends, and barely left the house, it is alleged.
Ms Cottage said: "She was hidden from the outside world, and it kept from her, except as a tool with which to terrify her into subjugation."
Ms Cottage said Balakrishnan terrorised and demeaned his daughter until she escaped at the age of 30.
She said: "It doesn't have to be by lock and key. It doesn't have to be chained up.
"Over time the psychological and mental control was so strong over her that she could not exercise any independent choice at all."
And Balakrishnan convinced his followers he could read their minds, it is alleged.
He preyed on young women, and his Communist commune evolved into a "cult of Bala" where paranoia and fear became order of the day, it is alleged.
His followers were only allowed to read left-wing texts, would spy on each other and report to Balakrishnan, who would criticise, beat and sexually abuse them, jurors heard.
He separated the women from their relatives, convincing them they were fascist agents, the court heard.
Ms Cottage said: "Over a period of time, Bala said that he had to control people's minds and scrub them clean of the bourgeois culture and lifestyle."
One of the women he sexually abused became so paranoid about the outside world that she thought the Americans were controlling her because she wore a pair of Levi's trousers, jurors heard.
Another victim was a nurse who joined the Workers Institute to make friends, jurors heard.
Over time she was made to give all her money to the collective and was regularly beaten by Balakrishnan, it is alleged.
Jurors heard that when she went to work she did not realise she had bruises because there were no mirrors in the collective, and by the time she left she felt "less than a person".
Balakrishnan had sexually assaulted her and she washed herself and "scrubbed herself to try to take every trace of him away", the court heard.