Brazilian prosecutors charge healer 'John of God' with rape, sexual assault

FILE PHOTO: Brazilian spiritual healer Joao Teixeira de Faria, known as "John of God", arrives at the police station a day after being officially ruled a fugitive, in Goiania, Brazil December 16, 2018. Picture taken December 16, 2018. REUTERS/Metropoles/Igo Estrela

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Prosecutors on Thursday charged a disgraced Brazilian faith healer with rape and sexual assault, following his arrest after allegations from hundreds of women who said he had sexually abused them while seeking spiritual guidance or psychic healing from him.

João Teixeira de Faria, known as “John of God,” was arrested earlier this month and has been imprisoned since.

He became a celebrity after his healing methods were featured on Oprah Winfrey’s television show in 2013 and drew thousands of Brazilians and foreigners to his spiritual center in the small town of Abadiânia, in the central Brazilian state of Goiás.

His fame has been boosted by supposedly miraculous surgeries he claims to have performed with his hands and without anesthesia.

Goiás prosecutors charged Faria on Friday on four counts of rape and sexual assault, a spokesman said in a statement. Farias has repeatedly said he is innocent.

The accusers are not just Brazilian citizens, according to prosecutors, and include four women from the United States, three from Australia and three from different parts of Europe.

Reporting by Ricardo Brito; writing by Marcelo Rochabrun; editing by Jonathan Oatis