PNG woman lashed to pole and burnt to death-media

PORT MORESBY, Jan 7 (Reuters) - A young Papua New Guinea woman was lashed naked to a pole and burnt to death in what authorities fear may be another sorcery killing in the jungle interior of the country, local media reported on Wednesday.

Black magic is still practiced in the highlands of Papua New Guinea and women are often killed for having extra marital affairs, accused of sorcery or blamed for spreading HIV/AIDS.

Witnesses told The Post Courier newspaper that the woman, aged between 16 to 20, was stripped, blindfolded, gagged and tied to a pole on Tuesday.

"The girl was stripped naked and could not shout for assistance or resist as she was tightly strapped and her mouth gagged," witness Jessie James told the newspaper.

Truck tyres and firewood were then placed around her, petrol poured over the tyres and wood and set alight, James said.

"I don't know the right words to describe it but it's barbaric. Can you find the best words to describe such acts that are rampant here?" said highlands police chief Simon Kauba.

The Post Courier newspaper editorial condemned the killing, saying PNG's hysteria over sorcery was creating a climate similar to the 17th century witch trials in America.

"If it is alleged she was a sorcerer, this is yet one more example of hysteria and superstition running rampant in parts of our country," said the editorial.

"Sorcery is a most difficult crime to prove. In the witchery trials of America, hundreds of years ago, hysteria took charge and terrible injustices were done. People were burned at the stake. We are doing the same thing now," it said.

"How many of our young are afraid to go home because of these sorcery beliefs and vengeance practices? Those who say she got primitive justice should pause to think, it could be you next on that truckload of burning tyres." (Writing by Michael Perry; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)