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Dutch police arrest 'father' in farmhouse cult case

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The Hague (AFP)

Dutch police on Thursday arrested the father of a family kept for nearly a decade in a farmhouse, saying they were investigating whether a "certain belief in faith" was behind the case.

The 67-year-old was suspected of depriving people of their liberty, harming the health of others and money laundering following the discovery of the people in the northern village of Ruinerwold, police said.

He is the second person to be arrested. The 58-year-old tenant of the farmhouse, an Austrian man, appeared before an examining judge on Thursday on similar charges and was ordered to be detained for two weeks.

"We are dealing with an exceptional situation in this case. These people may have lived with each other in the home since 2010, apart from society," police said in a statement.

Police said the group "claim to form a family" with the suspect arrested on Thursday as the father and the six young people -- including one who raised the alarm after fleeing to a local pub -- supposedly being his children.

"We have reason to believe that the six people involved did not stay at the premises out of free will. We are investigating whether following a certain belief in life or faith has led to the living situation in which the people were found," the police statement said.

"The situation encountered requires a careful approach whereby attention and care is given to the young adults found."

Dutch local television station RTV Drenthe earlier said the Austrian man, identified only as Josef B, the father and the captive family were all part of South Korea's controversial Unification Church, dubbed "Moonies" after their late founder Sun Myung Moon.

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