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Korean family accused of 'exorcism' murder as trial opens in Frankfurt

A South Korean family has been charged with killing a woman during a supposed "exorcism" ritual. Among the accused is the victim's 16-year-old son.

A South Korean family went on trial in the German city of Frankfurt on Monday, charged with killing a woman in a hotel room during a supposed exorcism ritual.

Among the accused is the victim's 16-year-old son. The other defendants include the 44-year-old cousin of the victim, her 21-year-old son and 19-year-old daughter, and another boy aged 15.

Prosecutors told the court that the victim had been tied to her bed, gagged and severely beaten for two hours in a hotel room in December. The accused believed that the woman had been "possessed by demons" after she allegedly began talking to herself and lashing out for no apparent reason.

The woman died of asphyxiation as a result of "massive chest compression and trauma to the neck," investigators said after discovering the victim's body.

Shamanist influence

Police also found a second suspected female victim, severely injured and suffering from hypothermia and dehydration, in the house the group had rented in the nearby town of Sulzbach.

The five accused are believed to practice a form of Christianity with influences from the ancient Asian shamanist religion, which is based on the belief that spirits play a powerful role in the world.

They reportedly arrived in Germany only six weeks before the killing took place and planned to set up an import-export business.

Three of the accused are under the age of 18 and will therefore be tried in a juvenile criminal court.

The trial is expected to last until mid-January.

Exorcism rituals in Germany

Exorcism rituals – the purported eviction of demons from a person they are believed to have possessed - were common practice within the Catholic Church during the Middle Ages. While the church still conducts them in part, they are highly constrained and only employed after all medicinal and psychiatric alternatives have been exhausted. Today, during an exorcism, priests are permitted only to pray to God, lay their hand on the person and spray holy water.

Outside of the church, there have been a number of attempted rituals in Germany among family members, many often leading to violence.

In 2009, a man in Baden-Württemberg was charged with killing his elderly mother. Believing she was possessed, he beat her with a Bible and forced her to drink gallons of water, eventually killing her. The man was subsequently diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.

In 2013, a woman in Bavaria attacked her bedridden husband with an ax. A witness prevented the attack and the man remained unharmed. Speaking of the incident, the woman said she was convinced that her husband had been possessed by the devil.

dm/tj (dpa, AFP)

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