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Three held over abuse of two elder women accused of witchcraft

Three held over abuse of two elder women accused of witchcraft

THREE people arrested after they allegedly locked up two elderly women and accused them of witchcraft are facing a court investigation, police said Sunday.

Police in Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok district say the suspects, including the grandson of one of the victims, detained the elderly women after blaming them for a mysterious illness that afflicted the daughter of one of the suspects.

“We will send the suspects to Phnom Penh Municipal Court for interrogation over the allegations of illegal detention,” said Mak Hong, the police chief in Sen Sok district, who did not specify a court date for the trio.

Police believe the two women, who are 98 and 71 years old, were locked in a room on the upper floor of the house that they shared with one of the suspects.

Toek Thla commune police chief Pen Thol said the women were forcibly confined after one of the suspects sought the advice of a traditional doctor when his daughter fell seriously ill.

The doctor accused the two elderly women of conjuring sorcery that caused the suspect’s daughter to contract the illness, he said.

The suspect “locked the two elderly women in their own house, which made the women angry”, Pen Thol said.

“They didn’t eat anything and, due to their elderly age, it caused them to go senseless.”

It wasn’t until other family members came to Phnom Penh in early February to visit the women that they were freed, Man Sophal, a lawyer representing the victims, said Sunday.

Man Sophal said he approached the police after the son of one of the victims asked him for help on February 5.

“He said they were locked in a room and accused of witchcraft,” Man Sophal said.

The two women have recovered from their ordeal, said Pen Thol, the Toek Thla commune police chief, who estimated that the women had been locked up for “a few days”.

Suspects found guilty of illegal confinement face prison terms of between three and five years if the detention in question lasted for less than one month.

Superstitions rife
For years, officials throughout Cambodia have reported cases in which people accused of black magic and causing illness have been murdered.

Sorcery has also been stated as a motive in at least one killing that rights groups suggested was actually politically motivated.

In 2001, a man affiliated with the Sam Rainsy Party was gunned down while bathing. The man convicted in the killing told authorities he believed the politician was a “sorcerer” who dabbled in black magic. However, rights groups at the time questioned why the court didn’t explore possible political motives for the killing.

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