More than 100 men charged over the killing of at least seven people accused of sorcery will stand trial in Papua New Guinea in April. The 122 defendants allegedly raided Sakiko village in the Mandang province, burning down houses and killing villagers in April 2014.
The men were arrested shortly after the incident.
At that time of the arrest, Madang provincial police commander Chief Inspector Sylvester Kalaut told The National website the victims had been cut from their legs up and then decapitated. Their heads had been taken away.
The men were charged with murder, attempted murder, arson and wounding. At least 99 of the defendants appeared in court earlier in March. All of the accused were released on bail.
Rights group Amnesty International welcomed the trial – due to begin on 18 April – saying it was a chance to promote justice in a country where killings of people accused of sorcery are widespread.
"For far too long, the killings of women accused of sorcery in Papua New Guinea have gone unpunished. They have often faced beatings, burnings and even public executions as the authorities have failed to act. This new trial is a chance to break with that tradition of impunity, if they are given fair trials without recourse to the death penalty," Champa Patel, Amnesty's Southeast Asia and Pacific Director said in a statement.
Witch hunting has been on the rise in the country since 2009, when officials recorded a surge in the homicides of women accused of sorcery.
In 2013, the case of a 20-year-old woman who was stripped naked, tortured and burnt alive after being accused of being a witch sparked worldwide outrage prompting the government to repeal the 1971 Sorcery Act, which allowed accusations of sorcery to be used as defence in a murder trial.
However, witch hunts and killings of people accused of sorcery have continued since.
In 2015, a video emerged of four young women accused of witchcraft being tortured in a village in Papua New Guinea. The footage showed the women being stripped, beaten and burned as they were interrogated by villagers. At least one of the women later died.