Two members of the mysterious Catholic cult featured in film The Da Vinci Code, will go on trial today accused of holding a woman hostage as a ‘brainwashed slave’ for 16 years.
Catherine Tessier, 40, claims she was forced to work 100-hours-a-week for no wages by leaders of the Opus Dei society made famous in Dan Brown’s best-selling novel.
The woman maintains she was held captive by the ultra pious group – which is funded by the Vatican – after her parents sent her on a live-in catering course in north-east France.
But unknown to her, the so-called University and Technical Culture Association boarding school was thought to be a hotbed of right-wing belief run by Opus Dei.
Ms Tessier, now 40, is set to tell the court in Paris how she was treated as a ‘virtual slave’ after joining the college in 1985 at the age of 14. Instead of being taught catering skills, she claims she was made to work as a domestic servant for college staff.
She was allegedly made to take religious vows, followed by staff at all times, locked in her room at night and given mind-numbing sedatives…
‘They compelled me to take vows of obedience, poverty and chastity. I was then made to work 14-hour days, seven days a week, cleaning and serving.
‘The staff paid me a salary and then reclaimed money by making me sign blank cheques supposedly to pay my room and board.
‘Staff accompanied me everywhere, including on visits to the doctor when I was prescribed tranquilisers that left me senseless,’ she added…
Lawyers first took legal action that year alleging ‘mental manipulation’ and other charges, but the case had been delayed by years of legal wrangling with Opus Dei.
The Rome-based society with 90,000 members around the world has denied it ran the catering school.
It said in a statement: ‘We are not involved in the charges being brought and have nothing to be guilty about.’…
The woman is now suing Opus Dei for damages in the country’s first ever trial directly targeting the organisation, which claims not to be secretive but refuses to ever give names of its members.