Authorities in Saudi Arabia have sentenced an African woman to 500 lashings and one year in prison after being convicted of practising witchcraft.

The court found her guilty of practising witchcraft on women and claiming she could end marital problems and make husbands fall back in love with their wives.

She is set to be deported after she is released from prison.

Prosecutions on witchcraft charges are not uncommon in Saudi Arabia and the country’s police force even has its own anti-witchcraft unit.

The country’s religious police, the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, said they caught the women in action when she was casting a spell on an undercover police officer posing as a customer in her home.

The Arabic language daily Al Madina reported, "The court sentenced the woman to one year in prison and ordered her lashed 50 times for 10 separate sessions…it also ordered her deportation from the Kingdom."

While being convicted for witchcraft might seem laughable to Western society, punishments are no joking matter and can even include execution.

The anti-witchcraft unit was set up in 2009 charged with "apprehending sorcerers and reversing the detrimental effects of their spells.”

There has been a significant increase in witchcraft prosecutions in the past two years and foreign women working in households are often charged with such offences.

Human rights groups say while Saudis can believe in the existence of witchcraft, some use it as an excuse to retaliate against staff members.

"If there's an employer dispute — say the migrant domestic worker claims she wasn't paid her wages or her conditions are unlivable — a lot of times what happens, unfortunately, is the defendant makes counterclaims against the domestic worker," Adam Coogle, a researcher for Human Rights Watch, explained to The Atlantic last year. "And a lot of times they'll make counterclaims of sorcery, witchcraft, and that sort of thing."

In other cases employers are believed to have accused workers of witchcraft in response to allegations of rape and sexual assault. – Sunday world


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