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Monday, 27 April, 1998, 10:50 GMT 11:50 UK
Indonesian sorcerer sentenced to death
Suradji: police said he confessed to killing more than 40 women
A court on the Indonesian island of Sumatra has sentenced a traditional sorcerer to death for the murder of 42 women.

Achmad Suradji was convicted at a court near the regional capital of Medan after several weeks of testimony from witnesses who said their relatives had disappeared after visiting him.

There were cheers from a large crowd in the courtroom as the verdict was read out. More than 100 people had packed into the small courtroom while as many followed the proceedings outside on a television screen.

Suradji remained impassive throughout. His lawyers say he will appeal against the sentence.

The death penalty is rarely applied in Indonesia and it is not clear when, if ever, the sentence will be carried out.

Police had charged Suradji of strangling the women as part of a black magic ritual intended to increase his magical powers.

He was arrested on April 28 last year after a woman's body was found buried in a sugar cane field. She was last seen alive at his home.

Suradji allegedly told police that since 1986 he had killed 42 women as part of a ritual to improve his healing powers. Police have since unearthed all 42 bodies from the field.

The sorcerer said he began his killing spree after his late father contacted him in a dream and ordered him to murder 70 women in a black magic ritual.

After strangling his victims, Suradji claimed he drank their saliva, believing it would improve his powers as a sorcerer.

Suradji, who uses the alias Nasib Datuk Kelewang, was consulted by those seeking spiritual healing and good fortune. Many were thought to be seeking his help to make their husbands or boyfriends faithful.

One of his three wives, Tumini, is charged with complicity in the crimes and is currently on trial at a separate court there.

Now see the film

A graphic film about the case has already been released throughout Indonesia. Suradji's lawyers have protested that this has prevented their client from receiving a fair trial.

But according to the BBC's correspondent, these gruesome killings appear to have made no impact on the appetite for mystical guidance here. Sorcerers say that since Indonesia's economic crisis began, they have never had so many customers.

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BBC News
BBC Correspondent Jonathan Head: "Indonesians surprisingly understand about sorcerer's crimes." (43')
See also:

06 Apr 98 | LATEST NEWS
Indonesia closes seven banks
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