One member of the family discovered living mostly isolated from the outside world on a farm in the Netherlands for nearly a decade was previously associated with the South Korean-based Unification Church, according to church officials.
Prosecutors announced on Twitter that a 58-year-old man, whose identity was not released, is suspected of involvement in "deprivation of liberty and harming the health of others." The man, widely reported in Dutch media to be an Austrian national identified only as Jozef B., was ordered by a judge Thursday to be held for an additional two weeks while the investigation into the matter continues.
One of the family members was believed to have been affiliated with the Unification Church, Dutch broadcaster RTV Drenthe originally reported. The family became involved with the religious cult known for mass weddings when the father moved to the Netherlands and lived off donations that enabled them to live at the farm for nearly a decade in isolation, according to the broadcaster.
A cousin of the presumed Jozef B. told De Telegraaf the family was thrown out of the group about 30 years ago.
"There was a lot of disagreement between my parents and my uncle, and between my uncle and the church association," he told the newspaper. "At a certain moment he ran away angry."
Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, also known as "The Unification Church," said in a statement to Fox News it was "deeply alarmed" to hear of the family being held in "inhumane conditions" in the Netherlands.
"While we can confirm that one of the victims, Mr. Gerrit Jan van Dorsten was briefly a member of our movement in the mid-1980’s, he is known to have suffered from mental health issues and left our organization in 1987," the groups said.
Van Dorsten's estranged brother, Derk van Dorsten, said in a statement released by the group: "I have not heard from my brother since 1984."
The organization said it is unable to confirm any records the 58-year-old had was ever associated with the church
"Family Federation champions three ideals: family, peace, and unification. We are grateful that the 6 victims in this tragedy are now under the care of the local authorities and pray that they will be able to heal from their ordeal with time and professional help," the group said.
The Unification Church was founded in 1954 by Sun Myung Moon, a self-declared messiah who believed he was chosen by Jesus Christ to continue the work of establishing an ideal world of peace and harmony, according to Reuters.
Until his death in 2012, Moon oversaw mass weddings at which thousands were matched with spouses they sometimes had just met and in some cases did not even speak the same language. Followers of the group were often called "Moonies" by critics, who raised questions over how it indoctrinated members, according to Reuters. In the early 1990s, the group was believed to have as many as 7 million followers in 180 nations.
The organization was banned in Germany and other European continues in the 1990s because it was viewed as a dangerous religious sect, DutchNews.nl reported.
Among the rituals the "Moonies" at the farm in the Netherlands had to do were walking in a circle every 30 minutes, according to RTV Drenthe. After the family was initially taken off the farm on Monday, the family members continued to walk outside in laps every 30 minutes.
Bystanders saw the odd behavior and began taking photos, prompting Dutch authorities to relocate the family, according to the broadcaster.
The six members of the family, reportedly a father and children aged 18-25, were discovered this week living in what local mayor Roger de Groot called "improvised rooms" on a farm in the Netherlands' rural east.
The father of the family reportedly had a cerebral infection three years ago that left him paralyzed, which allowed the family to keep receiving money from the organization. A large amount of cash has been found on the farm, RTV Drenthe reported.
They were discovered after a 25-year-old man left the farm, visited a local bar and raised the alarm. Dutch media reported Wednesday that the young man, Jan Zon van Dorsten, had been active in recent weeks on social media, including saying that he worked for a company run by the suspect who is to be charged.
Drone images of the farm showed a cluster of buildings with a large vegetable garden on one side. The small property appeared to be ringed by a fence and largely obscured by trees.
While Dutch media reported the family was living on the farm allegedly "waiting for the end of time," officials have not released any additional details. The Drenthe Police Department said a Large Scale Investigation Team is now operating at the farm, and investigators are probing possible criminal charges, according to police.
"We understand that everyone still has many questions. We have that, too. That is why we want to do our research thoroughly and carefully," police said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.