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16 Ohio Amish plead not guilty to hate crimes over beard-cuttings

Sixteen Amish women and men charged with cutting the hair and beards of fellow Amish have pleaded not guilty in an Ohio court to hate crimes, several US media have reported.

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An Amish farmer works on his field near Paradise, PA, November 01, 2011. (MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)

Sixteen Amish women and men charged with cutting the hair and beards of fellow Amish have pleaded not guilty in an Ohio court to hate crimes, several US media have reported.

Cutting the beards hair of men and women is considered deeply offensive in Amish culture, and prosecutors say the alleged attacks late last year were motivated motivated by religious differences, conspiracy and assault, the Associated Press reported.

The Amish believe the Bible instructs women to let their hair grow long and men to grow beards and stop shaving once they marry.

The accused — six women and 10 men, led by Samuel Mullet Sr. — face up to 10 years in prison if found guilty when the case goes to trial August 27.

The updated indictment also charges Mullet with lying to federal agents during their investigation by denying knowledge of an October assault.

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The suspects are also accused of trying to destroy evidence, including shears, a bag of hair and a disposable camera.

Prosecutors say the attacks were part of a feud between Mullet, of Bergholtz, Ohio, and other Amish bishops after members of his group left and joined neighboring communities, Reuters reported

According to ABC News, Mullet excommunicated eight families who left the sect under his rule beginning 2005, because they found the sect leader's behavior controlling.

Seven of the accused were denied bail, with one of their attorneys, Joseph Dubyak, saying said that their extended families were helping out as the planting season began.

"They planted the oats and they are getting the corn ready," Dubyak said, the BBC reported. "They are all pitching in, they are all working together. They have somebody conducting their religious services."

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/united-states/120419/amish-ohio-beard-cutting-hate-crime