Friday, January 30, 2009

What a way to die!

Accused sorcerer butchered in Eastern Highlands Province


A 40-YEAR-old man accused of practising sorcery was chopped to death outside Goroka in the Eastern Highlands province last weekend, a barbaric killing that only came to light yesterday, The National reports.

The man was allegedly taken before a kangaroo court that comprised church pastors and village court officials, pronounced guilty and taken away to be chopped to death by a group of men armed with bush knives.

The killing occurred at a village in Unggai-Bena district last Friday, and shocked National Doctors Association president, Dr Kauve Pomat, who was in the village at the time.

An eyewitness, who gathered the victim’s mutilated remains and buried them, identified the deceased as John Ogono from Fayantina in Henganofi district.

Mr Ogono had migrated to Kopafo village in Unggai-Bena district to live there.

Dr Pomat, who is from the area, yesterday confirmed to this reporter that he was present at the “court hearing” to determine whether the accused was actually practicing sorcery.

“I was there at the hearing, but when he (deceased) was removed, I left. Being a doctor and a life-saver, I was emotionally bogged down and deeply saddened,” Dr Pomat said.

He said he tried in vain to plead and negotiate with the villagers to spare the man’s life.

Dr Pomat said he did not witness the actual killing, but later heard about how it was done and was horrified.

The eyewitness who spoke to The National said Lampo villagers who live between Goroka and Henganofi, near the Okuk Highway, alleged that the deceased and another person were sorcerers and went after them.

He said 10 youths including a village peace officer went to Kopafo village at around 4am last Friday and picked up Mr Ogono, his wife, his teenage son and an another man while they were asleep in their house.

“They took them to Siguyagu creek before releasing the wife, son and the other man. They took Ogono (deceased) to the village and interrogated him in a hastily convened court comprising four church pastors, a peace officer, and a village court chairman,” the eyewitness, who declined to be identified in fear of his life, said.

He said at around 11am, the villagers led by a prominent village leader (named) interrogated Ogono, forcing him to admit to practicing sorcery.

The deceased’s last words, according to the eyewitness, were: “In the eyes of the leaders, only God knows, I am innocent.” He spoke the words in the local dialect.

Before he could finish, a young man standing close to him kicked him, and as he fell down, he was kicked in his jaws.

“Youths all armed with bush knives dragged him away and chopped him to pieces,” the eyewitness said.

The pastors are from the Four Square, Lutheran, Baptist and Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) churches. The peace officer and the village court chairman have been identified to police.

The eyewitness said the same group of youths that killed the man went to Kintunu village the next day (Saturday) and took away another person they accused of being a sorcerer.

Sehupa Trimek, 25, was tortured and was slowly being put to death when Dr Pomat intervened.

As they were in the process of torturing him by pushing a red-hot iron rod into his body and started inflicting knife wounds, Dr Pomat intervened and appealed to them to stop.

The attackers heeded his plea and released the accused, demanding K5, 000 and two pigs from him. The villagers claimed he (Trimek) had gone to Lae and placed a leaf under the bed of one of their relatives working there, the eyewitness said.

Placing a fresh leaf under someone’s bed is viewed as an attempt to take someone’s life through sorcery.

Dr Pomat confirmed that he sent word to the group of youths not to torture and kill Trimek, and they released him.

According to the eyewitness, the whole village was warned not to report the matter to police. But the eyewitness decided to speak out to reporters in Goroka yesterday.

Eastern Highlands provincial police commander Chief Supt Teddy Tei, when contacted yesterday, said they police had not received any report of such a killing, but would now launch an investigation.

“This is a barbaric act. Police will investigate this,” Supt Tei said.

Sorcery related killings are all too common in the Highlands. Deaths from illnesses such as AIDS are often blamed on sorcery, and the old and the weak are usually targeted.

Chairman of the Constitutional Development Commission Joe Mek Teine has vowed to bring tough legislation before Parliament to put a stop to this practice.


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