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81-Year-Old Woman Found Guilty of Arson
Reuters, Aug. 31, 2001
VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - An 81-year-old member of a Christian sect that has a history of using arson and public nudity in religious protests was found guilty on Thursday of setting a fire to a community college building.
Mary Braun, a member the Sons of Freedom sect, who had refused to wear clothes during her two-day trial, was convicted of arson for a blaze that her attorney had told the court was intended only as a small "symbolic gesture" but got out of control, badly damaging the building.
Court official said Braun would be sentenced on Nov. 19.
The Sons of Freedom are a breakaway sect of the Doukhobor faith, an obscure group of Russian Christians whose beliefs include pacifism and total equality. The group immigrated to Western Canada in the late 1800s to escape brutal persecution.
The sect waged a campaign for Doukhobor "purity" in the 1950s that included burning their own homes, destroying government and private property and parading naked down city streets in British Columbia's southeastern Kootenay region.
Braun is believed to be one of the last active members of the Sons of Freedom. Her appearance in court, covered only by a court-provided blanket, echoed back to arson trials of other sect members in the 1950s
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