Pastor in fatal Nicaragua exorcism found guilty

Pastor in fatal Nicaragua exorcism found guilty
Juan Gregorio Rocha (centre) sits between his lawyers during the initial hearing in Managua on March 10, 2017.

A pastor who carried out an exorcism in remote Nicaragua that resulted in the death of a 25-year-old mother of two was found guilty of murder on Tuesday.

A Managua jury announced the conviction of Evangelical pastor Juan Rocha and four followers over the deadly rite, carried out February 15 to 21 in the isolated village of El Cortezal in northeastern Nicaragua. Rocha and three of the others were also found guilty of illegal detention.

The defendants, who had denied committing murder, said the woman, Vilma Trujillo, had been possessed by the devil.

Witnesses said she had been kept bound for days without food or water, then thrown naked on a burning pile of wood. She died a week later in a Managua hospital of severe burns.

The trial of the pastor and followers Pedro Rocha, Tomasa Rocha, Franklin Jarquin and Esneyda Orozco had been broadcast live since its start April 25 in Nicaragua to great public interest.

"I'm innocent of what I'm accused of," Orozco had pleaded during proceedings.

The judge handling the case, Alfredo Silva, was to deliver his sentences Tuesday next week.

Prosecutors requested the maximum penalty of 30 years for murder and six years for false imprisonment, saying the men had acted cruelly and with premeditation.

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