Women saved from witch burning

MICHAEL FIELD
Last updated 14:19 13/02/2013

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Two elderly women have been rescued just as they were about to be set on fire as witches.

The rescue comes as a wave of sorcery deaths continues in Papua New Guinea, where last week 20-year-old mother Kepari Leniata was burnt to death in front of hundreds of people in Mt Hagen, in the Western Highlands.

Her gruesome torture as a witch and death was photographed by many people and widely published.

Now it has been discovered that last week six men in mountains near Madang have been put to death for allegedly practising sorcery.

The PNG National newspaper said in the latest incident police were tipped off that two women were to be burnt alive allegedly for bringing about the death of an eight-year-old girl.

Assistant Police Commissioner and Highlands divisional commander Teddy Tei told the newspaper the two women were tied to pillars by relatives of the girl.

Tei said the girl had died after she was "gang-raped and killed by two known suspects" who were present at the attempt to burn the old women.

The two women were tortured, but police moved in after witnesses phoned them.

He said relatives of the dead girl had hired a "glassman" - someone who claimed supernatural powers - who said the two old women were behind the death of the eight-year-old.

Tei said the "glassman" and the two rape-and-murder suspects, together with those ready to set the two women on fire, tied up the women.

"Police know their identities and they will be arrested sooner or later," Tei said of those who managed to escape from the suspected group.

He appealed for an end to attacks on innocent people.

"What evidence do they have to produce to court for sorcery-related killing and torturing?" he asked.

Tei said the "glassman" was money-driven and could point at anybody to obtain money.

In last week's incident Leniata was tortured to the point she admitted killing a six-year-old boy through sorcery.

Police have now arrested an undisclosed number of people over that burning.

The newspaper said the six men killed near Madang were from the Finisterre Range of Rai Coast district, where sorcery was common.

No arrests have been made as there are no police posts in the area.

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