Police in Papua New Guinea have charged two people with the disturbing murder of a 20-year-old woman accused of practicing witchcraft. Kepari Leniata was stripped naked, assaulted with a hot iron rod, drenched in gasoline, and burned alive on a heap of trash and car tires earlier this month. 

Hundreds of people looked on while Leniata burned to death, including many children and teenagers. Of the 40 people detained during the investigation of the crime so far, Janet Ware and Andrew Watea have been charged with the gruesome killing. 

It is believed that Watea and Ware are the uncle and mother of the six-year-old boy whose death sparked accusations of Leniata’s involvement with witchcraft. Though only two people have been charged, a veritable mob formed around the murder—a mob so huge and unruly that police say they were unable to stop the crime from happening, despite the fact that they were on the scene. 

Witchcraft is often invoked as an explanation of misfortune in rural Papua New Guinea, but this murder has enraged the nation, and those responsible have been uniformly condemned. 

"What has been reported is very barbaric and inhuman," Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O'Neill said. "No one commits such a despicable act in the society that all of us, including Kepari, belong to. Barbaric killings... are becoming all too common in certain parts of the country. It is reprehensible that women, the old and the weak in our society, should be targeted for alleged sorcery or wrongdoing that they actually have nothing to do with."

 

Sources: Jezebel, AP [Warning: AP article contains graphic images]

Photo via Jezebel

Tagged in: witchcraft, Papua New Guinea, Kepari Leniata, crime   

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