You should not let a sorceress live. (Exodus 22:17 NAB)
The father and step-mother of a 14-year-old girl from western Sweden were charged on Friday with repeatedly beating and burning the girl because they “thought she was a witch”, according to the prosecutor.
“According to the girl’s version of events she has been subjected to being locked up, has had her feet tied together, assault through being burned with a red-hot knife in a torture-like manner and other violent rites and exorcisms,” prosecutor Daniel Larsson wrote in a statement.
Along with the parents, a pastor from a small religious community in Malmö has been charged.
“There is a pastor in Malmö who is under suspicion but is currently abroad,” Larson wrote.
According to local paper Borås Tidning (BT), suspicions first surfaced in 2004 when an anonymous report to the National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen) claimed all was not right, but the agency opted not to pursue the matter at the time.
Six years later, in 2010, the agency received new reports that the child was being abused, as well as information indicating that her father had taken her to Skåne to force the evil demons out of her.
The 37-year-old father denies all allegations saying he has done everything in his power to help his daughter who has been feeling “mentally unsettled”.
“He says he knows of no violence against her at all,” said defence lawyer Jan Elgmark to news agency TT.
Instead, the man claims to have sought medical advice, and help from his church, in dealing with the girl's problems.
The 33-year-old step-mum is under suspicion for systematically abusing the girl over a long period of time.
“She denies these allegations,” her defence lawyer Torkel Stenbäcken told TT.
The prosecutor claims that the parents have shaved off the girl's hair and locked her up so that she couldn't infect her younger siblings with her “inherent evil”.
“My client hasn't been privy to anything like that. But there are others who are under suspicion and it is possible that they have. However, it isn't a criminal act to give someone a haircut,” Stenbäcken told TT.
He also denied that the step-mother had burned the girl with a red hot knife.
“There is no substance to those claims,” her lawyer said.
The woman has, however, admitted to some form of exorcism being performed.
“Yes, you could say that but that isn't a crime. That's religion and you're allowed to practice that,” said Stenbäcken.
He added that it wasn't the step-mother who had performed the rites, but other people. Prayers had been said in order to exorcize the demons from the girl or make her feel better.
“This is done in a religious context and I guess they thought it might help,” Stenbäcken told TT.