July 16, 2024

The main opposition leader in Seychelles, Patrick Herminie, has been charged with witchcraft, along with seven others.

Police say the case is related to the discovery of two bodies exhumed from a cemetery on the island of Mahé.

He has denied the charges, telling local media that his prosecution is a “political show” to taint his image.

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

A magistrates court on Monday freed him and six of his Seychellois co-accused on bail of 30,000 Seychelles rupees ($2,100; £1,745), but ruled that a Tanzanian suspect should stay in custody until the next court appearance in November.

Mr Herminie and his co-accused face several charges, including possession of items intended for use in witchcraft, conspiracy to perform witchcraft and procuring services related to witchcraft, according to local media reports.

Prosecutors allege that the opposition leader’s name appeared in a WhatsApp message between a Seychellois national and the Tanzanian suspect, who was arrested on 21 September at the main international airport.

The Tanzanian was found with items 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.

Mr Herminie, who served as the speaker of Seychelles’ parliament between 2007 and 2016, told local media that more than 40 police officers had raided his party’s offices in the capital, Victoria, on Friday.

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.

Mr Herminie described his arrest as “a political show” by President Wavel Ramkalawan to “eliminate those who he knows will remove him from power in the 2025 elections”, the Seychelles News Agency reported.

President Ramkalawan has not commented on the case.

Mr Herminie has said he does not believe in witchcraft.

“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.

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