Polygamist sect leader taken to hospital after prison protest

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The Independent US

Warren Jeffs, the polygamist sect leader and convicted child rapist, was under sedation but still conscious in hospital yesterday, prison officials said. They rejected widely reported rumours that Jeffs, who is being treated for dehydration and other undisclosed health issues, was in a medically-induced coma.

"He is somewhat sedated but remains responsive at this time," said Jason Clark, of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

Jeffs, 55, is serving a 130-year sentence for sexually assaulting two of his many under-age wives. He was taken from his prison cell to East Texas Medical Centre in Tyler on Sunday night after prison officials became worried about his condition. Mr Clark said Jeffs had been fasting but was not on a hunger strike.

Mr Clark said: "There does come a time if a person goes on a hunger strike, and refuses to eat, that medical staff can make the decision that he has to eat."

Jeffs is the self-declared "prophet" of the Fundamentalist Church of Latter-Day Saints, a polygamist Mormon breakaway sect that has a ranch in west Texas. He was sentenced on 9 August for assaulting two young girls he had taken as "spiritual wives" at the sect's Yearning for Zion compound near San Angelo.

Jeffs has declined to eat at other times when he has been incarcerated and prison officials were forced to seek medical treatment. At one point officials in Arizona force-fed him.