Accused Witch Burned Alive; Kepari Leniata Tortured By Mob In Papua New Guinea

By iScienceTimes Staff on February 8, 2013 10:19 AM EST

Accused Witch Burned Alive
A woman was burned alive in Papua New Guinea after a mob accused her of sorcery. (Photo: Reuters)

An accused witch burned alive in Papua New Guinea was tortured at the hands of a vicious mob that believed she killed a young boy with sorcery. Hundreds of townspeople from Mount Hagen stood by and watched as Kepari Leniata, the accused witch, was burned alive after being stripped naked, tortured with a branding iron, tied up, splashed with fuel and set on fire on a mound of garbage and car tires. Efforts to save the accused witch as she burned alive were obstructed by the angry mob, and police and firefighters were unable to reach her in time. Officials on the small island nation expressed disgust and vowed justice.

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"We add our voice to those of Papua New Guinean religious and civil society leaders who have spoken out against the brutality inflicted upon Ms Leniata," the U.S. embassy said. "There is no possible justification for this sort of violence. We hope that appropriate resources are devoted to identifying, prosecuting, and punishing those responsible for Ms Leniata's murder."

The accused witch burned alive isn't the first victim of an angry, sorcery-fearing mob. Another accused witch was burned alive in 2009. Many people in the island nation still believe in sorcery and vigilante justice for witches, so much so that the government passed a law in 1971 outlawing violence against those believed to be practicing sorcery.

"Barbaric killings connected with alleged sorcery. Violence against women because of this belief that sorcery kills. These are becoming all too common in certain parts of the country," said Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister Peter O'Neill. It is reprehensible that women, the old and the weak in our society should be targeted for alleged sorcery or wrongs that they actually have nothing to do with."

In addition to accused witches being burned alive, there have been several other cases of witchcraft and cannibalism in PNG in recent years. In 2011, a man was reportedly found eating his screaming, newborn son during a sorcery initiation ceremony.  Last July, police arrested 29 people linked to an alleged cannibal cult accused of killing at least seven people, eating their brains raw and making soup from their penises. Government officials aren't the only ones worried about the practice, as local religious leaders have become increasingly outspoken on the issue.

"Sorcery and sorcery-related killings are growing and the government needs to come up with a law to stop such practice," Bishop David Piso said.

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