12 charged with hate crimes in Amish beard cutting

Beards are considered a symbol of faith in Amish religion. / leeno (Flickr)

A dozen Ohio residents have been charged with federal crimes related to a string of Amish beard and hair-cutting attacks between September and November.

The seven-count indictment covers five separate attacks against Amish men and women. The Associated Press reports 66-year-old Samuel Mullet, the alleged leader of the sect responsible for the attacks, and 11 members were charged with conspiracy, assault and evidence tampering.

Authorities say the way Amish men wear their beards and women wear their hair are considered symbols of their faith. Prosecutors say because of this, these hair-cutting attacks fall under the federal Hate Crimes Act.

"For nearly 500 years, people have come to this land so that they could pray however and to whomever they wished," U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach told WTAM. "Violent attempts to attack this most basic freedom have no place in our country."