• Panama Human Rights

Grave with bodies of 6 children and one adult at Veraguas exorcism site

A grave containing four bodies was unearthed just hours after 15 people were freed from the clutches of a religious sect that carried out an exorcism ritual putting three people in the hospital in Veraguas and led to the arrest of 10 members of “The new Light of God” cult.

 National Police Director Alexis Muñoz confirmed on Wednesday, January 15, that a grave was found in the community of El Terrón, corregimiento of Santa Catalina, in the Ngäbe Buglé region, after the arrest of members of the sect that was denounced for mistreating and depriving at least 15 people of freedom.

Muñoz said that when police officers arrived in the area, information was received about the existence of a grave and they confirmed that it was true.

"Immediately, this was put in the hands of the Public Ministry and the criminal technicians," said Muñoz.

He said that all members of the sect who were arrested and those affected are indigenous.

Exorcism victims would not accept Christ

Site of the killings

The alleged religious cult killers of seven people during exorcism rites including children aged one to nine whose tortured bodies were found in a grave in El Terrón will appear in court on Friday, January 17.

The location of the bodies was revealed, after a complaint of abuse against a sect that performed religious rites and practiced exorcisms of indigenous people of the Ngäbe Buglé ethnic group.

The murders would have been carried out at night between Saturday 11 and Sunday 12 of this month, say police reports. The victims were beaten with bibles and planks, tortured and strangled according to witnesses.

A witness told TVN News that the mother of a murdered girl told him that she did not oppose the killings because the “shepherds” had confirmed, "that the child had not accepted Christ." The deaths and abuses would have occurred within a wide hut, the “church” of the sect, according to TVN News images.

Air and Sea personnel (Senan) rescued 14 victims, including seven minors and two pregnant women who were taken by helicopter to a hospital in Santiago.

Six people who were identified as victims of torture were part of the family of a second corporal of the National Police Ananías González, according to an official note from the Ministry of Security.

The warning of the existence of the sect was given after three brothers managed to escape and reach a health center in Veraguas before being hospitalized with severe injuries

The president of the National Coordinator of Indigenous Peoples of Panama (COONAPIP), Marco Guerra, expressed dismay and sadness over the events in the Ngäbe Buglé Comarca.

"One of the problems that we have in the region is the little rigor that exists when it comes to ensuring the safety of the town when all kinds of religious groups and NGOs arrive that nobody investigates or filters the information about their true intentions and interests, affecting a people as vulnerable as ours, "he said..

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