US party president arrested and released for alleged witchcraft-related offences |30 September 2023
United Seychelles (US) party president, Dr Patrick Herminie, found himself in a state of legal turmoil yesterday morning, as he was apprehended by law enforcement authorities, allegedly for offences tied to witchcraft.
Dr Herminie, however, was subsequently released.
Describing the episode to the media after his release, Dr Herminie disclosed that over 40 officers, including personnel from the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and the Counter Terrorism Unit, encircled the Maison du Peuple, a location housing his office, at approximately 9am.
Dr Herminie asserted that the officers brandished a court-issued warrant, dated Thursday, authorising the search of his office premises for items related to witchcraft, particularly items such as “bones, body parts, and objects associated with Christianity”.
Notably, no such objects were discovered during the search, he asserted.
In the course of this operation, law enforcement officers seized electronic devices, namely, three USB drives, an external drive, and a laptop from a library within the same building.
Following these developments, Dr Herminie was taken into custody and transported to the CID office at Bois de Rose.
Regarding the unfolding events, Dr Herminie recounted that he declined to provide a statement upon the authorities’ request.
He went on to reveal that the investigation appeared to stem from a WhatsApp exchange between an individual and a Tanzanian national, in which his name and that of President Wavel Ramkalawan were mentioned.
Expressing his bewilderment, Dr Herminie raised questions about the disparate treatment between himself and President Ramkalawan.
“I am being treated as if I were a criminal,” he remarked.
It should be emphasised that last Friday, six individuals, comprising five Seychellois citizens and one Tanzanian national, were arrested in connection with witchcraft-related offences. The charges against them encompass activities contrary to various sections of the penal code, including the practice of witchcraft, trespassing on burial sites, insulting religious sentiments, and making utterances intended to offend religious beliefs. These individuals appeared before the Magistrates Court on Monday and currently remain in remand custody.
Dr Herminie commended the professionalism and respect exhibited by the law enforcement officers throughout the incident. However, he voiced his suspicion that the directive to target the US party came directly from State House and President Wavel Ramkalawan.
He recalled a prior instance when he was detained for questioning, in connection with an incident whereby two men were arrested allegedly on their way to blow up Grand Anse fuel station, during which he was accused of being involved in bomb-making activities.
He added that the US party would take decisive action to counter what he referred to as “harassment tactics” by the President.
Dr Herminie disclosed that they intend to write to the Electoral Commission to apprise them of the situation, as he believes that the administration seeks to dismantle the party and undermine his leadership.
Furthermore, he indicated that the international community would be informed about the ongoing developments.
“We think this is a well-calculated set-up to try and denigrate US,” he said.
“I do not believe in witchcraft,” Dr Herminie added.
In addressing specific allegations, Dr Herminie confirmed that he did meet with one of the arrested individuals in his office. However, he maintained that their discussion centered on matters related to the Islamic faith, and did not touch upon anything associated with witchcraft.
He also clarified that one of the arrested individuals occasionally worked as a security officer but was not officially employed by the Maison du Peuple.
In response to inquiries regarding his decision to publish a video on Thursday, wherein he addressed the accusations related to US party's alleged association with witchcraft, Dr Herminie explained his rationale. He emphasised that he viewed it as a crucial step due to two primary reasons.
Firstly, he highlighted the deliberate circulation of court documents that contained his name, on various social media platforms throughout the week. This, he believed, necessitated a public response to address the allegations and clarify his stance.
Secondly, Dr Herminie revealed that party intelligence had received information as early as Monday suggesting that his arrest was imminent. However, it appeared that the authorities were waiting until President Ramkalawan's return on Wednesday to make a final decision on the matter. This timing influenced Dr Herminie's decision to release the video to the public.
In concluding, Dr Herminie firmly asserted that any efforts to link him to witchcraft would ultimately prove futile. Furthermore, he went to the extent of alleging that the Linyon Demokratik Seselwa (LDS) government deliberately orchestrated this situation to divert attention from the numerous challenges facing the country under its governance.
Photos by Joena Meme