A court in South Korea on Thursday sentenced a pastor to 15 years in prison for raping eight worshippers over 40 different occasions at his Manmin Central Church in Seoul.

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It was learned that the Seoul Central District Court was convinced that Pastor Lee Jae Rock used his authority to commit the rapes.

The 75-year-old pastor of the church, which has about 130,000 followers, regularly took advantage of his followers’ trust in him as a man close to God, Yonhap news agency reported.

It was also gathered that the church, which was founded by Lee in 1982, claims to have more than 10,000 branches around the world.

Reports also reveal that the church was expelled by the Christian Council of Korea in 1999 under the accusation of “heresy.’’

Information on the church’s website shows claims that “countless have received God’s healing of such incurable and terminal diseases as AIDS, cancer, and the like on the spot when Rev Dr Lee prayed not by placing his hand on each of the sick but merely for all from the pulpit.’’