Seychelles drops opposition leader’s witchcraft case

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A picture taken on November 19, 2019, shows Patrick Herminie, director of the Agency for Prevention of Drug Abuse and Rehabilitation (APDAR) during an interview with AFP in Mahe island, the largest island contains the capital city of Victoria, Seychelles.Image source, AFP

Seychelles’ main opposition leader Patrick Herminie is no longer facing witchcraft charges after prosecutors dropped the case against him.

He had always denied the accusations and speaking outside court on Thursday described them as “malicious action”.

The police had said the case related to the discovery of two bodies exhumed from a cemetery on the island of Mahé.

Mr Herminie plans to run in the 2025 presidential election under the banner of the United Seychelles Party.

He called the case an “abuse of power” by President Wavel Ramkalawan, the AFP news agency quotes him as saying.

“We do not have the right to arrest someone and put them in prison for nothing at all,” he said.

The president has not commented on the case.

Mr Herminie served as the Speaker of Seychelles’ parliament between 2007 and 2016.

The prosecutor told a magistrates’ court in the capital, Victoria, that he was withdrawing all charges against him.

No reasons were given for the decision.

Last October, Mr Herminie and six of his Seychellois co-accused were freed on bail.

They were charged with the possession of items intended for use in witchcraft, conspiracy to perform witchcraft and procuring services related to witchcraft, according to local media reports at the time.

Prosecutors originally alleged that the opposition leader’s name appeared in a WhatsApp message between a Seychellois national and a Tanzanian suspect, who was arrested last September at the main international airport.

The Tanzanian was found with items allegedly related to witchcraft, including stones, black wooden artefacts, small bottles of brownish liquid, a collection of powders and documents with strange language and “demonic and satanic” symbols, they said.

The documents were similar to those found in Catholic churches and other places that had been vandalised in Mahé, Seychelles’ largest island, prosecutors further alleged.

Along with Mr Herminie four others who were part of the original case are no longer facing charges.

A new case has been opened against the Tanzanian and two others, the Seychelles News Agency reports.

Mr Herminie told local media last year that more than 40 police officers had raided his party’s offices in Victoria.

He added that the officers searched for items related to witchcraft, including “bones, body parts, and objects associated with Christianity” but did not find any.

“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,” he was quoted as saying at the time.

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