Two charged in Papua New Guinea 'sorcery' killing case

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Two people have been charged in Papua New Guinea with burning alive a woman they accused of sorcery, officials say.

The pair charged with the murder of Kepari Leniata, 20, are related to a six-year-old boy they accused her of using sorcery to kill, police said in a statement.

Ms Leniata was doused in petrol and set on fire in Mount Hagen on 6 February.

The case has drawn public condemnation, including from Prime Minister Peter O'Neill, who called it "barbaric".

Cecile Pouilly, spokesperson for the UN's human rights office, on 8 February expressed "great concern" over the incident.

"We urge the government to put an end to these crimes and to bring perpetrators of attacks and killings to justice through thorough, prompt and impartial investigations in accordance with international law," she said.

'Not finished'

In parts of the Pacific nation deaths and mysterious illnesses are sometimes blamed on suspected sorcerers. Several reports have emerged in recent years of accused people, usually women, being killed.

In 2009, after a string of such killings, the chairman of Papua New Guinea's Constitutional Review and Law Reform Commission said defendants were using accusations of witchcraft as an excuse to kill people, and called for tougher legislation to tackle the issue.

The police have interviewed at least 40 people in connection with the incident.

The two who have been charged, from a village in the Laiagam district, are the boy's mother and uncle, according to a report in The National newspaper on Monday.

"We are not finished," provincial police commander Martin Lakari was quoted by paper as saying.

"If any evidence or reports come in later saying other people involved are still at large, we will also arrest them."

Police and fire-fighters were unable to intervene at the time because they were outnumbered by the crowd and chased away.

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