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Tuesday, June 18, 2024

International Outrage as Opposition Leader Peter Herminie in Seychelles Charged with Witchcraft

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VICTORIA, Seychelles – In an unprecedented turn of events, Patrick Herminie, the primary opposition figure in Seychelles, faces charges of witchcraft alongside seven other individuals.

The authorities have linked these charges to the unsettling discovery of two exhumed bodies from a cemetery on Mahé Island.

Strongly denying these allegations, Herminie has characterized the legal proceedings against him as a politically-motivated effort to sully his reputation.

As he gears up for the 2025 presidential run under the United Seychelles Party (USP), such charges threaten to cast a shadow on his political aspirations.

On Monday, a local magistrates court granted bail to Herminie and six Seychellois co-defendants, setting it at 30,000 Seychelles rupees (approximately $2,100; £1,745). However, a Tanzanian suspect’s involvement in the case resulted in a decision to keep him detained until a scheduled November court hearing.

The accusations against Herminie and his associates encompass a range of offenses, from possession of witchcraft-related items and conspiring to perform witchcraft to procuring witchcraft services, as per local news outlets.

The prosecution’s claims hinge on a WhatsApp conversation between a Seychellois individual and the detained Tanzanian, which allegedly mentions Herminie. Subsequent investigations led to the Tanzanian’s arrest at the main international airport on September 21, where authorities seized an assortment of items deemed connected to witchcraft.

This cache included black wooden artifacts, mysterious liquids, peculiar powders, and documents with “demonic and satanic” symbols.

The prosecution further contends that these documents bear a striking resemblance to those found at vandalized Catholic churches on Mahé, the largest island in Seychelles.

In response, Herminie, who held the position of Seychelles’ parliamentary speaker from 2007 to 2016, recounted a significant police raid on his party’s Victoria-based offices.

He asserts that despite the extensive search for witchcraft-related items, the authorities left empty-handed.

Citing political motivations behind his arrest, Herminie accuses President Wavel Ramkalawan of orchestrating this to neutralize potential rivals in the upcoming 2025 elections. As of now, the President has remained silent on these allegations.

Reaffirming his disbelief in witchcraft, Herminie stated, “In Seychelles’ history, there has never been until now, a political party leader arrested for superstition and witchcraft. This is something new and it is shameful for Seychelles.”

This case marks a critical juncture in Seychelles’ political landscape, drawing attention to the intersections of traditional beliefs, political agendas, and the country’s future trajectory.

The Advocacy for Alleged Witches, directed by Leo Igwe, has condemned the charges, describing them as “absurd and embarrassing.”

The group argues that such accusations have no place in 21st-century politics, especially when they blur the lines between traditional religious objects and so-called witchcraft items.

In his statement emailed to The Trent on Wednesday, October 4, 2023, Igwe posed a series of critical questions: “How does the government define witchcraft or witchcraft items? How will they distinguish between traditional religious objects and items intended for use in witchcraft? How can state prosecutors determine that certain symbols are indeed demonic or satanic?”

Furthermore, Igwe challenges the government’s ability to prove the legitimacy of these charges without infringing upon citizens’ rights to freedom of religion or belief.

With increasing instances of witch-related persecution across Africa, the Seychelles government faces international scrutiny and is urged to re-evaluate this potentially baseless witch hunt.

The international community keenly watches as this case unfolds, bearing significant implications for the intersection of cultural beliefs, politics, and the rule of law in the modern era.

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