At least 32 people beat to death five women accused of sorcery before burning their corpses in Tabora on July 25, officials say. Hundreds of people accused of witchcraft are murdered in the east African country each year.
A Tanzanian court has charged 32 people with murder after five women accused of sorcery were beaten to death, and their corpses burned.
Hundreds of people accused of witchcraft are murdered in the east African country each year.
The suspects – among them the leader of a local militia – are accused of killing the women in Tanzania's western Tabora region on July 25, state attorney Melito Ukongoji told a magistrates court on Monday.
This is the first time a mob has been charged with witch killings, Tanzania Women Lawyers Chairwoman Athanasia Soka said.
"I am happy to see that authorities are taking appropriate actions to prevent violent crimes against innocent women," Lweno Masali, a local, said.
Most of the women were beaten to death before being burned, a police spokesman said.
The suspects did not enter any pleas because the court does not have the jurisdiction to preside over murder cases.
They were remanded in jail until September 4, when the case will move to a higher court.
Rights groups have lobbied for the government to step up prosecutions, but it is usually very difficult for the government to identify people who have taken part in such crimes.
Tanzanians' belief in witchcraft dates back centuries as a way of explaining common calamities such as failed harvests and infertility. The accusation is also often a smokescreen for other disputes, such as over land.
Thousands of elderly Tanzanian women have been strangled, knifed to death and burned or buried alive over the last two decades after being denounced as witches.
Women with red eyes are often accused of being witches.
Almost 500 people were killed by mob justice in the first six months of 2017, many of them women accused of witchcraft, Tanzania's Legal and Human Rights Centre said.
Most of the murders took place in the large city of Dar es Salaam and in the southern highlands where superstitions are strongly held, it said.
In 2015, Tanzania banned "witch doctors" in a bid to curb a rising wave of attacks and murders of albinos whose body parts are prized for witchcraft. The ban came after a four-year-old albino girl was kidnapped from her home by an armed gang.
The government accused the shamans of fuelling these killings by luring people to bring albino body parts which they grind up with herbs, roots and sea water to make charms and spells that they claim bring good luck and wealth.
The United Nations is investigating attacks on people with albinism in the country, where at least 76 people have been killed during the past ten years.