Myanmar court gives exorcist death for killing 3 children

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A court in Myanmar sentenced a self-styled exorcist to death on Tuesday for killing three children during a ritual he carried out after telling their parents their offspring were possessed by evil spirits.

A police officer in Thanlyin, the township where the trial was held, said the court sentenced Tun Naing for the deaths of two girls, aged 8 months and 2 years, and a 3-year-old boy. The children suffered fatal injuries last October when Tun Naing punched and kicked them. The officer, contacted by phone, declined to give his name.

Superstition and belief in spirits is common in Myanmar, especially in rural villages in the Buddhist-dominated country.

Tun Naing, 30, had pleaded guilty when he was brought to trial in November last year, telling the court, "I lost control of my mind and I killed them."

Tun Naing received an additional sentence of seven years in prison for severely injuring a 4-year-old girl in a separate ceremony in another village. Witnesses to that incident alerted the police, who arrested him.

Death sentences are rare in Myanmar, and none have been carried out since 1988. However, the death penalty is still applied when there is clear evidence of a capital crime such as murder, said Kyaw Myint, a veteran lawyer.