Published September 27, 2016
A woman accused of being a witch was burned alive on a bonfire in an indigenous community in a remote part of the country's Amazon rainforest, authorities said Tuesday.
Prosecutor Hugo Mauricio said members of the Shiringamazu Alto community sentenced 73-year-old Rosa Villar Jarionca to death over claims she made people sick through witchcraft. The alleged burning took place Sept. 20, but the area is so remote that word of it did not reach authorities until recently.
Mauricio said a cellphone video shot by a witness and given to prosecutors appeared to show Villar with her hands tied amid a pile of dry logs and branches. A man bathes the logs and the woman with gasoline and another man throws a lit match onto the bonfire. Villar can be heard screaming.
"The woman was burned alive because the people accused her of being a witch," Mauricio told The Associated Press.
He added that villagers burned her body on the pyre for three days to leave no traces of the killing but that authorities managed to locate some bones. He said he and 20 police officers visited the scene and returned with evidence they collected.
A record of the decision to burn Villar at the stake was written by hand in the community's log book and seen by authorities, Mauricio said. It indicated she was sentenced by a majority vote and the decision was signed by community leaders, he said.
The document said her punishment would serve "as an example to the community and other communities against this kind of damage," referring to allegations that Villar had made members of the community sick, the prosecutor said.
Mauricio, whose Puerto Bermudez district in Peru's central rainforest includes 300 indigenous communities, said accusations of witchcraft are common. In 2015, a pregnant woman in another community was accused of witchcraft and beaten so badly she aborted.
He said the remote area lacks a strong government presence, with residents having scant access to justice, health or education.