But the defense team for the Rose Marks family says it was something very different — religion, free speech and a sincere belief in spiritual healing.
The tiny southern French hamlet of Bugarach has drawn scrutiny from a government sect watchdog over droves of visitors who believe it is the only place in the world that will survive a 2012 Apocalypse.
So many people in France believe that the world is about to end that a government agency today alerted the country to the risk of mass suicides by converts to prophesies of imminent Armageddon.
Pastors in southeast Nigeria claim illness and poverty are caused by witches who bring terrible misfortune to those around them. And those denounced as witches must be cleansed through deliverance or cast out.
As daylight breaks, and we travel out to the rural villages it becomes apparent the most vulnerable to this stigmatization of witchcraft are children.
It might sound weird, but even in 2010 the brooding Balkan countries can’t shake their addiction to psychics, clairvoyants, soothsayers and assorted ‘white witches’, all of which are still doing a roaring trade, from Bulgaria to Translyvania.
Every second Bulgarian who took part in a survey for the Sofia television channel BTV said they believed in supernatural powers, and especially feared a curse being put on them. Professor Ljubomir Halachev confirmed in the programme that “trust in psychic powers and second sight is widespread in Bulgaria”.
The apparently unchallengeable claim by Bulgarian clairvoyants and psychics to paranormal powers rests on the world-renowned reputation of their late peer, the seer Baba Vanga — who is claimed to have predicted, before her death in 1996, a number of world events, including the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, the death of Princess Diana, the break-up of the Soviet Union, the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the US — “two American brothers would fall under attacks by birds of steel” — and the sinking of the Russian nuclear cruise-missile submarine Kursk.
Dozens of villagers in the Kenyan district of Kisii are falling prey to superstitious groups accusing them of witchcraft.
The poverty-stricken western district, known as Kenya’s sorcery belt, has seen an increase in mob attacks on individuals and even killings.
The poor and elderly in particular are being targeted.
From hunchbacked grandmas to schoolboys, hundreds of pilgrims lined up this week in blazing sunshine to get a glimpse of 9-month-old baby Ali Yakubov, on whose body they say verses from the Koran appear and fade every few days.
In many African countries, as in other parts of the world, children are blamed for causing illness, death and destruction, prompting some communities to put them through harrowing punishments to “cleanse” them of their supposed magical powers.
Pastors have been accused of worsening the problem by claiming to have powers to recognize and exorcise “child witches,” sometimes for a fee, aid workers said.
So far, 130 healers, including Fadkin, have passed the service’s voluntary testing program, which promoters in the government say can determine whether someone has the inherent ability to cure. The program is limited to Moscow, but a Russian lawmaker is pushing to extend it nationwide and make it mandatory.
Skeptics scoff at the notion that such testing is meaningful and criticize the government for lending credibility to people who claim paranormal powers.
A new terror is stalking the survivors of Burma’s cyclone, as villagers in the deeply superstitious country tell of being haunted by the ghosts of those who perished in the disaster.
At least 50 people have lost their sight after staring at the sun hoping to see an image of the Virgin Mary, according to reports.