ARGENTINA: A court chastises PROTEX for fabricating victims of a church

The defendants were absolved and the judge recommended to investigate the “scandalous” abuses of the anti-trafficking agencies and psychologists.


by Massimo Introvigne 

Bitter Winter (06.02.2024) – There are horror movies and then there are “horror cults.” In the incredible case of the Buenos Aires Yoga School (BAYS) the expression “secta del horror” was liberally used by the media. But it seems that in Argentina it is now a general category: an Evangelical church called Iglesia Tabernáculo Internacional (ITI) was also called “secta del horror” by the media.

What the cases of the BAYS, the ITI, and Cómo vivir por fe (How to Live by Faith), the Argentinian affiliate of the Australian movement Jesus Christians, have in common is the key role of a special prosecutorial office called PROTEX (Procuraduría para el Combate de la Trata y Explotación de Personas, Office of the Procurator for Combating the Trafficking and Exploitation of Persons). PROTEX raids with great fanfare and the presence of the media groups it accuses of being “cults” practicing “coercive persuasion” or “brainwashing” and “trafficking” their members, arrests their leaders, and “liberates” the “victims”—who unanimously deny being victims.

While the BAYS case is still pending, the Jesus Christians were found not guilty of trafficking or any other crimes on November 28, 2022, by the Federal Criminal and Correctional Court of Sáenz Peña, with an order severely criticizing PROTEX.

Even more severe for PROTEX, the other prosecutors, and the anti-cult “expert” psychologists who see “cults” and “trafficking” everywhere is the decision rendered on February 1, 2024, by the Court of Paraná in the case of the Iglesia Tabernaculo International (ITI).

On September 1 and 2, 2022, a farm operated by ITI in El Redomón, in the Deparment of Concordia, and several private homes were raided at the instigation of PROTEX. The pastors of ITI, Sergio Gabriel Ziegler and his wife Mónica Viviana Mancinelli, were arrested together with two co-workers and later committed to trial, together with other six leaders of the movement who had not been arrested. It was announced that twelve “victims” who had been “imprisoned” in the El Redomón community, called ITI Jerusalem, by “false pastors” and compelled to work without salary, had been “liberated.” As one newspaper reported, “The event had an enormous media repercussion and some Buenos Aires media called the ITI Jerusalem community ‘the cult of horror.’”



Massimo Introvigne (born June 14, 1955 in Rome) is an Italian sociologist of religions. He is the founder and managing director of the Center for Studies on New Religions (CESNUR), an international network of scholars who study new religious movements. Introvigne is the author of some 70 books and more than 100 articles in the field of sociology of religion. He was the main author of the Enciclopedia delle religioni in Italia (Encyclopedia of Religions in Italy). He is a member of the editorial board for the Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion and of the executive board of University of California Press’ Nova Religio.  From January 5 to December 31, 2011, he has served as the “Representative on combating racism, xenophobia and discrimination, with a special focus on discrimination against Christians and members of other religions” of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). From 2012 to 2015 he served as chairperson of the Observatory of Religious Liberty, instituted by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in order to monitor problems of religious liberty on a worldwide scale.

Photo: Judge Roberto Manuel López Arango, who presided the court and drafted the decision. From Facebook.

Further reading about FORB in Argentina on HRWF website