June 23, 2009 / 9:41 PM / 9 years ago

Mennonites accused of mass rape in Bolivia

LA PAZ (Reuters) - Eight men from a Mennonite community in Bolivia have been arrested and accused of raping at least 60 women from their farming settlement in the eastern Santa Cruz region, a prosecutor said on Tuesday.

“We’ve been told that more than 60 women from the Manitoba Mennonite community (could have been raped). Possibly many more ... it seems this has been going on for about 10 years,” prosecutor Freddy Perez told local television network PAT.

The arrested men could have used drugs to sedate their victims, said Perez, adding the men were suspected of raping at least two underage girls.

“They confessed when they were detained by members of their community ... now they are denying (the charges),” said Perez.

PAT aired images of the eight Mennonite men wearing overalls and baseball caps behind bars in a prison in the town of Cotoca, in Santa Cruz, the country’s agricultural heartland.

The men were scheduled to appear in court for a hearing on Wednesday.

There are dozens of Mennonite settlements in the rich lowlands of eastern Bolivia, and most members are descendants of European immigrants.

Editing by Peter Cooney

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