Charges were brought against Janet Ware and Andrew Watea in Papua, New Guinea on Monday for the horrendous murder of a woman who was set on fire after being accused of practicing witchcraft. Twenty-year-old mother, Kepari Leniata was "stripped, tortured with a hot iron rod, doused in gasoline and burned on a pile of car tires and trash by a mob earlier this month," reports the Huffington Post. Hundreds of people are said to have witnessed the atrocity, including young children.
The Inquisitr reports that Ware and Watea also tied up two elderly women they suspected of witchcraft, but officals arrived before they could be set on fire, say police.
Relatives of a 6-year-old boy who recently died in the hospital had accused Leniata of sorcery. Witchcraft is frequently attributed as the cause of unexplained misfortunes in rural New Guinea. Police believe Ware to be the boy's mother and Watea to be his uncle.
Last week over 40 people were detained in connection with Leniata's slaying, but all except Ware and Watea were "released due to lack of evidence." However, more arrests are anticipated.
It is difficult to imagine a "witch burning" taking place even in a rural area, in this day and age. Superstition continues to incite some of the most reprehensible actions.
News of the murder provoked outrage across the nation and was condemned by the prime minister, police and diplomats.
Although there were some police officers present among the spectators at the "witch burning," national police spokesman Dominic Kakas says officers were outnumbered to the extent that they were unable to save Leniata. An internal investigation is currently being conducted into the actions of police during the killing.
While murder is punishable by death in Papua, there have been no hangings since the country achieved independence in 1975.
If Ware and Watea are found guilty, hopefully their punishments will be severe enough to discourage others from committing similar crimes. There may be some sympathy for the two if they are in fact the mother and uncle of the boy who died, but brutal murder should not be condoned under any circumstances.
One thing is for sure. Those who watched this horribly disturbing event are certain to never forget it. The images will undoubtedly haunt, if not deeply traumatize, the small children who were present more than anyone.
Photo by Zanitycomau via Wikimedia Commons