Prosecutor: minors at risk of forced labor at Brazil church

Prosecutor: minors at risk of forced labor at Brazil church
Church leader Juarez de Souza Oliveira, right, linked to the U.S. based Word of Faith Fellowship, leaves the labor court after a hearing, in which prosecutors alleged that the church "reduced people to a condition analogous to slavery," in Franco da Rocha, in the greater Sao Paulo area, Brazil, Wednesday, April 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)

FRANCO DA ROCHA, Brazil (AP) — A senior Brazilian labor prosecutor says minors remain at risk and are being forced to work against their will by a church with ties to the U.S.-based Word of Faith Fellowship.

Catarina von Zuben said Wednesday that the Ministerio Evangelico Comunidade Rhema church has refused to cease practices that authorities allege amount to slavery.

Von Zuben is the national coordinator for prosecutors who work on combatting modern-day slavery in Brazil. She spoke to The Associated Press after the first hearing in a civil suit in which prosecutors are seeking the dissolution of the church in Franco da Rocha and the school it runs.

At the hearing, former church members who have said they were mistreated faced off with the church’s pastors for the first time in court.