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WITCHCRAFT! The Central African Republic prison where women are jailed charlatanism and sorcery

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Among the bunk beds in a dimly lit cell deep inside a women’s prison near the Central African Republic capital Bangui, religious murmurs take on an almost mystical aura.

Huddled around a cluster of icons, inmates jailed for “practices of charlatanism and sorcery” (PCS) pray the rosary, mustering the last of their strength as if the only recourse left to them is the divine.

Almost half of the 42 women held in the Bimbo prison facility have been accused of PCS, listed as a crime on the statute books in the poor central African country.

“It’s because of my sister Nina that they brought me here. I don’t recognise the deed for which I’m in prison,” said Sylvie in the jail’s main courtyard, where detainees prepare meals, dry their washing and watch over their children.

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“My sister’s husband died because he was poorly cared for and my sister caused trouble for me,” Sylvie told AFP in the shadow of walls topped with barbed wire.

Her innocence is not in doubt. Nina even came to apologise for what she had done, but that was insufficient. Sylvie is still awaiting trial after more than a year behind bars.

Her story is like that of many others when death or illness afflicts a family.

Whether out of sincere conviction or with malicious intent, a family member accuses a relative, a neighbour or someone else of practising witchcraft to cause trouble.

“Sorcery always poses a problem in Central African law,” says Nadia Carine Fornel Poutou, head of the Association of Women Jurists in Bangui, which runs public awareness workshops on the thorny topic.

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– ‘The vulnerable people’ –

“It’s always mystical, so it’s difficult for a judge to reach a verdict,” Fornel Poutou told AFP, noting that proof is difficult or impossible to obtain.

Women are always first in the line of fire.

In the absence of hard evidence, simple accusations are often enough for a conviction. Some people abuse this judicial flaw to vent their jealousy or settle scores, Fornel Poutou said.

“The vulnerable people — women, children and the elderly — are always accused of sorcery,” she said.

Bimbo prison director Roger N’Gaka-Passi confirmed that women are primary targets. “You’ll find perhaps a score of those women here… There are few PCS cases among men.”

The phenomenon may result from women entering direct competition with men and challenging the prevailing patriarchal order, argues anthropologist Louisa Lombard in her book “Making Sense of CAR” (Central African Republic).

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Sylvie is more fortunate than fellow detainees accused of sorcery. After her sister’s visit and apology, she can dare hope to return to home once released.

“In general, even if women accused of PCS (offences) get out of jail, they run the risk of being rejected by their community, if they escape popular condemnation,” Fornel Poutou said.

With resigned sorrow, the jurist called up on her computer a photo taken in 2015 at Boali, some 100 kilometres (60 miles) northwest of Bangui. It shows the body of an elderly woman accused of witchcraft who was atrociously mutilated and cut into pieces.

Crime

India police arrest Pigeon on suspicion of being a Pakistan spy

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India police arrest Pigeon on suspicion of being a Pakistan spy

The India police have arrested a pigeon on suspicion that it is a trained spy for Pakistan.

Indian officials said that the pink painted bird carrying a “coded message,” attached to its foot was alleged to have flown from across the border that separates Indian and Pakistan-controlled parts of Kashmir, according to reports.

Villagers living close to the border in Manyari turned the pigeon over to authorities after catching it along the border, Sky News reported.

Geeta Devi, a resident of the Kathua district of Indian-administered Kashmir, reported that the bird flew into her home Sunday night. Police logged the animal as a “Pak Suspected Spy” and launched an investigation to decipher the message, the outlet reported.

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“We don’t know where the bird has come from. Locals on our side captured it near our fence,” Kathua police’s senior superintendent Shailendra Mishra told the Times of India.

“The pigeon, suspected to be trained in Pakistan for spying, has a ring with letters and numbers written on it,” a police source said.

“Though birds have no boundaries and many fly across international borders during migration, a coded ring tagged to the captured pigeon’s body is a cause of concern as migratory birds have no such rings,” the source added.

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However, in an update, a Pakistani villager has urged Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to return his pigeon, currently being held in India on charges of spying.

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The man identified as Habibullah, who lives just 4km (2.5 miles) from the border, said he flew his pigeons to celebrate Eid festival.

This is not the first time birds have reportedly been used for espionage in the disputed territory in the past.

In 2016, the Indian police arrested a pigeon that was found carrying a warning note to Prime Minister Narendra Modi near the nation’s heavily militarized border with Pakistan.

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In 2013, Indian security forces found a dead falcon fitted with a small camera, and in 2010 another pigeon was detained over spying fears.

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Crime

Police arraign man, 26, over alleged fraud

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The police on Friday arraigned a 26-year-old man, Ilesanmi Ojo, before an Ado-Ekiti Chief Magistrates’ Court over alleged fraud.

The defendant of no fixed address is standing trial on a count charge of the alleged fraud.

The prosecutor, Insp. Oriyomi Akinwale told the court that the defendant committed the offense sometimes in the month of Dec. 2019 at Onala area in Ado-Ekiti.

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He alleged that the defendant, a mechanic, fraudulently obtained the sum of N155,000 from one Pastor Olusegun Olufowose to repair his Sienna vehicle.

Akinwale also alleged that the defendant duplicated the key of a Nissan Pathfinder Jeep with Reg. No. WWW 852 AE, belonging to the complainant without his consent.

He said the offenses contravened Sections 421 and 508 of the Criminal Code, Laws of Ekiti State, 2012.

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The prosecutor asked the court for an adjournment to enable him to study the case file and assemble his witnesses.

The defendant pleaded not guilty.

His counsel, Mr. Olarewaju Oluwasola, urged the court to grant his client bail, with a promise that he would not jump bail.

The Chief Magistrate, Mrs. Olanike Adegoke, granted bail to the defendant in the sum of N100,000 with two sureties in like sum.

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She adjourned the case until June 24 for hearing.

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Crime

You have case to answer, court tells mechanic accused of manslaughter

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An Ikeja High Court on Friday told a mechanic, Taiwo Adeyemi, accused of killing a colleague during a physical scuffle, that he had to defend the manslaughter charge filed against him by the Lagos State Government.

Justice Hakeem Oshodi, delivering a ruling on a no-case submission filed by defence counsel, Mr Adetokunbo Agoro, said the prosecution for the state had presented sufficient evidence before the court to warrant Adeyemi putting up a defence.

According to reports the ruling on the no-case submission was originally slated to have been delivered on May 4 but was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Delivering the ruling online, Justice Oshodi said: “From the evidence laid before the court by the prosecution, there has been no evidence that has been discredited by the defence.

“There is, however, ample evidence on the face of the court’s record which is legally admissible, that links the defendant to the deceased.

“There cannot be any dispute that death occurred after a fight. The defendant is said to be the other party of the fight.

“From the written submission of the defence counsel, he believes that there is no documentary and prima facie case laid out by the prosecution and that the evidence of the first and second prosecution witnesses are hearsay.

“To the court, the prosecution has made out a prima facie case for the defendant to face. Accordingly, the defendant is now called upon to open his defence.”

Following the ruling, the judge adjourned the case until July 27 for defence.

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Reports have it that Adeyemi is charged with manslaughter contrary to Section 227 of the Criminal Law of Lagos 2011.

He was arraigned at the High Court on June 5, 2017.

According to the prosecution led by Mr M.T. Adewoye, the defendant committed the offence at 1.00 p.m. on April 4, 2014, at a mechanic’s shed, located at Ashade Market, Mangoro, Agege, Lagos.

“The defendant had an argument with the deceased, Sikiru Oladeinde; during the scuffle, he hit the deceased with a plank that had nails attached to it.

“Oladeinde sustained some injuries and passed away some days later in hospital,” the prosecutor said.

During the trial, three witnesses testified on behalf of the prosecution — a welder and co-worker of the deceased, Mr Olujimi Ogunleye; the brother of the deceased, Mr Kehinde Oladeinde; and the Investigating Police Officer (IPO), Sgt. Felix Osunbu.

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