Five men and a woman have been finally convicted for running a child sex-abuse ring out of a suburban property in Palmela.
Setúbal court heard how members of the so-called “Verdade Celestial” sect actually abused their own children.
But in the current climate of scandals – Raríssimas, and allegations that a Brazilian religious movement “stole” children from a Lisbon care home – it fell somehow into a dim third place.
For Public Ministry investigators however it has been the culmination of a truly dark and dismal investigation which they first became aware of in 2015.
At the time, a source for the PJ stressed it was “not normal” for Portugal to have such depravity going on in almost plain sight.
“It seems almost unbelievable that something like this could take place in what looks like an ordinary house”, said the source.
The “something like this” involved children being lured into rituals of ‘purification’ on the pretext of being offered psychological counselling.
Setúbal court heard that some of the children’s families thought their young charges were out playing football, studying with friends, or receiving religious guidance, when in fact what was happening was a consistent nightmare sexual abuse instilling terror.
The court heard that least two of the children were the sons of practising sect members.
All the children – aged from 8 to 16 – were terrified into silence.
Last year tabloid Correio da Manhã claimed that the various suspects faced over 400 crimes.
On Tuesday, the sect’s 36-year-old leader Rui Pedro was jailed for 25 years after being found guilty on multiple charges of rape, pimping, child pornography and ‘other crimes’.
His wife and four other men were sentenced to prison terms of between 7 and 19 years. Two women were acquitted.
The crimes were “committed between 2011 and 2015”, writes Reuters, but most of them refer to 2014.