Israeli cult leader gets 30 years for rape, incest

An Israeli court sentenced a polygamist cult leader to 30 years in prison on Tuesday for multiple sexual offences including rape, indecent assault and incest, media reports said.

Goel Ratzon's lawyer said she would study the ruling before deciding whether to lodge an appeal.

"It is a grave and harsh sentence," Ravital Hotzer said in remarks broadcast on radio and television. "There has so far been no response from Goel Ratzon... clearly it's very tough news for him."

Ratzon was charged in 2010 with enslaving and sexually abusing 21 women he considered to be his wives -- although he was never officially married -- and the 38 children he fathered with them.

He was convicted last month on several counts of rape and other sex crimes against six women and girls but acquitted on the enslavement charge.

"Most of the women were minors at the time of the crimes; some were his own daughters," Haaretz newspaper said.

Ratzon, 64, sat motionless in the Tel Aviv magistrates court on Tuesday with thinning, shoulder-length grey hair and a long beard.

The three-judge panel also gave him a four-year suspended sentence, public radio said.

"The defendant entrapped the women in a social group that took the form of a pseudo-family evolving around the cult of himself," according to the charge sheet.

Prosecutors say Ratzon created an image of himself as someone who had magical powers with which he could heal or hurt the women, whom he raped and sexually abused and who mothered his children.

"The defendant treated the women as if they were his property aimed at serving himself and his needs," the indictment said.

"Through this total control the defendant led the women to completely scrap their character and devote their existence to satisfy his needs, including his financial and sexual needs."

He imposed a terror regime with strict rules and regulations aimed at intimidating the women and children, monitoring them with cameras he had placed in the apartments.

"I have the power to save and the power to destroy," the indictment quotes Ratzon telling a witness. "If you do things that I forbid then I will make sure you and your children are stricken with serious illnesses."