STOCKHOLM: A Congolese couple living in Sweden were charged Friday with child abuse for trying to exorcise their daughter at age 10 because they thought she was a witch, a prosecutor said.
"They've been charged today but have not been placed in custody," Daniel Larson, a prosecutor in the western Swedish town of Boraas, told AFP.
The couple from the Democratic Republic of Congo "think their daughter is a witch and reject the accusation" of abuse, Larson said.
The indictment is based on three alleged acts of abuse committed between February 2007 and February 2008.
The girl, who claims she is not the couple's biological daughter though the parents say otherwise, was beaten unconscious and forced to drink a concoction made up of a cleaning product and her own urine, according to the charge sheet.
Social services removed the girl, born in 1997, from her parents' custody in 2008 and she has since been living with a foster family. The girl only recently opened up about the abuse "once she felt safe," the prosecutor said.
She had been placed with the foster family because of various reports that she was not being treated well at home. Her school had among other things reported to social services that her parents treated her very differently from her brothers and sisters, for example sending her to school in dirty clothes everyday.
According to the online version of local daily Boraas Tidning, the parents had in 2008 applied for a social welfare cheque to be able to afford a trip to DR Congo to exorcise the girl. The aid was refused and she was shortly thereafter placed in foster care, though the abuse was never investigated at the time.
The trial is due to start in the next few months.
Another similar case went to trial in Boraas last year. The accused, also from DR Congo, were acquitted, and the prosecutor has appealed the verdict.