Women Held For Alleged Sorcery Released In Bougainville

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After one woman’s beheading, 3 others were kept at health center

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, April 22, 2013) – Bougainville Police in Papua New Guinea say they have secured the release of three women who had been held hostage in a rural health centre in Bana District.

The women were being taken to Buin Health Centre, in the south of Bougainville Island, after their release Monday morning.

The head of Bougainville Police, Superintendent Paul Kamuai, told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat the women were doing well considering their ordeal.

"The elder woman, who was seriously wounded, was able to walk," he said. "Then, she was able to have meals."

He says her condition is improving and she is receiving treatment.

Helen Rumbali, her sister Nikono and Nikono's two teenage daughters were kidnapped two weeks ago by armed men.

Ms. Rumbali was beheaded after the four women were accused of sorcery or black magic.

The three surviving women were then taken to a rural health centre where they were held hostage by the men.

Superintendent Kamuai says police will carry out an investigation into the kidnapping.

Sorcery killer found guilty

In a separate incident, local media has reported that a PNG man who killed his aunt with an axe, after accusing her of sorcery, has been jailed for 30 years.

Saku Uki Aiya was found guilty of the "senseless, barbaric and brutal" murder at a two-day trial in Enga province in PNG's northern highlands.

The court heard Mr. Aiya blamed his aunt for his brother's death and went to her home with two other accomplices - who remain at large - bludgeoning her neck and head with axes and knives.

PNG's National newspaper reported local police commander Sergeant Simon Mek saying the 21-year-old's case was the first of its kind to make it to a national court.

"So many such cases are reported but rarely go through to the high court as relatives accept their own customary ways of settlement in the village courts," Mek said.

The newspaper reported that in jailing Mr. Aiya, Justice Mekeo Gaulo said accusations of sorcery were becoming more frequent.

"In my view some are using sorcery as an excuse to terminate someone's life though the suspect may not be a sorcerer," he said.

Justice Gaulo urged people to use the court system to settle disputes.

The verdict comes days after the United Nations urged PNG to take a tougher stance on extra-judicial killings related to sorcery accusations.

The UN has called on the government to repeal the country's Sorcery Act, introduced in 1971, which criminalizes the practice of sorcery.

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