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2 charged in Papua New Guinea 'witch' killing

In this Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013 photo, bystanders watch as a woman accused of witchcraft is burned alive in the Western Highlands provincial capital of Mount Hagen in Papua New Guinea. The 20-year-old mother of one, Kepari Leniata was stripped naked by several assailants, tortured with a hot iron rod, bound, doused in gasoline, then set alight on a pile of car tires and trash. (Photo By The Associated Press)
In this Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013 photo, bystanders watch as a woman accused of witchcraft is burned alive in the Western Highlands provincial capital of Mount Hagen in Papua New Guinea. The 20-year-old mother of one, Kepari Leniata was stripped naked by several assailants, tortured with a hot iron rod, bound, doused in gasoline, then set alight on a pile of car tires and trash. (Photo By The Associated Press)
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The Associated Press
Monday, February 18, 2013 08:07 am
SYDNEY — Papua New Guinea police charged two people on Monday with the grisly killing of a woman who was burned alive in front of hundreds of people, including young children, after being accused of witchcraft.Janet Ware and Andrew Watea were charged with murder over the slaying of Kepari Leniata, a 20-year-old mother who was stripped, tortured with a hot iron rod, doused in gasoline and set alight on a pile of car tires and trash by a mob earlier this month.

Leniata had been accused of sorcery by relatives of a 6-year-old boy who had recently died in a hospital. Ware and Watea are believed to be the boy's mother and uncle, police said in a statement.

The two were among more than 40 people who were detained last week in connection with Leniata's slaying. The others were eventually released due to lack of evidence, but police said more arrests are expected.

In rural Papua New Guinea, witchcraft is often blamed for unexplained misfortunes, but the brutal killing was met with outrage across the South Pacific island nation, drawing condemnation from the prime minister, police and diplomats.

Police said the hundreds of onlookers, many of whom were children and teenagers, were powerless to stop the mob who participated in Leniata's killing in the Western Highlands provincial capital of Mount Hagen. Police officers were also among the spectators, but were outnumbered and couldn't save the woman, national police spokesman Dominic Kakas said. An internal investigation is under way into the police's actions at the scene.

Murder in punishable by death in Papua New Guinea, although no one has been hanged since the country became independent in 1975.

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