A trial has opened in London for the leader of a Maoist cult who is accused of sexually assaulting his followers and imprisoning his own daughter in a secretive commune for 30 years.

Jurors heard that the 75-year-old Aravindan Balakrishnan, known as "Comrade Bala," was a charismatic man who brainwashed his followers and led a communist group in London in the 1970s.

Prosecutor Rosina Cottage told a court Thursday that Balakrishnan subjected his daughter and other women to decades of psychological and physical abuse.

In 2013, police arrested Balakrishnan and his wife and released three women from the commune, saying they had been held against their will for 30 years.

Balakrishnan denies charges of indecent assault, rape, bodily harm, cruelty to a child and false imprisonment.