December 15, 2018 / 6:06 PM / 6 months ago

Brazil faith healer accused of sexual abuse ruled a fugitive

FILE PHOTO: A follower of Brazilian spiritual healer Joao Teixeira de Faria, known as "John of God", takes part in a demonstration in Abadiania, Brazil December 13, 2018. The sign reads: "God above all." REUTERS/Adriano Machado

BRASILIA (Reuters) - A Brazilian faith healer accused of sexual abuse by more than 300 women is now considered a fugitive after failing to report to authorities on Saturday.

A judge on Friday issued an arrest warrant for João Teixeira de Faria, known as “John of God,” giving until 2 p.m. (1600 GMT) on Saturday to surrender. His location was unknown as of Saturday afternoon.

In a video broadcast by news station GloboNews, Faria’s lawyer Alberto Toron said he will report to authorities but could not say where or when. Toron denied the accusations and said he will file an appeal on Monday.

Faria became a celebrity when Oprah Winfrey broadcast a report of his healing methods in 2013.

He drew thousands of Brazilians and foreigners to the spiritual centre he has led since 1976 in Abadiânia, a small town in the central Brazilian state of Goiás where a court authorized his arrest.

Faria denied the accusations on Thursday when he visited his centre and spoke to a crowd of followers. He said he would comply with the law.

Faria, 76, could face charges of rape, with a prison sentence of 10 years if convicted, and rape of a vulnerable person, which carries a sentence of up to 15 years.

Writing by Bruno Federowski; Editing by James Dalgleish

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