Police on Friday sentenced a group of men to 50 years in prison for killing six children and a pregnant woman during a “haunting” ceremony on January 14, 2020.
The “seven accused” of the “New Light of God” section have been sentenced to a maximum of 50 years in prison, police said in a statement.
The other two members of the group were each sentenced to 47 years in prison after reaching an agreement with the government.
The Sanguinola (Northeast) court found the victims guilty of tying up victims, including six children between the ages of one and 17, belonging to El Teron’s tribal community Ngäbe Buglé, with sticks, Bibles and knives under the pretext of “casting out demons from them.”
A pregnant woman who was forcibly dragged to the church of the division was killed in front of her five children.
Several witnesses who witnessed the incident were injured, fled and reported the incident to police. When they arrived, police found about fifteen people detained at the shrine, including several children.
During the investigation, the bodies of the victims were found in a mass grave, about an hour’s walk from the crime scene, still in a state of disrepair.
Panama has been the scene of massacres or kidnappings by other factions in recent years.
Clary Nevache (Chips), a researcher at the International Center for Political and Social Studies in Panama, says the established cults, especially the weakness of the Catholic Church, have allowed “many churches to infiltrate organizations with malicious intent” into tribal communities.
In August 2020, three suspected worshipers were arrested on charges of abducting and raping six children. The leader of the unit himself was arrested by the police a month later and later found a mass grave in the area where the unit operates, and spent 10 hours walking in the mountain forest.
Tribesmen from the Ngäbe Buglé community also claimed they were persecuted by another sect last January.
The most backward people are “obviously” the most vulnerable to sectarian mutations, so we are more likely to fall into this trap in the most remote parts of the country, “Ms Nevache told the AFP.