Scotland’s bill would pardon thousands of ‘witches’ sentenced centuries ago

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Thousands of people were convicted of practicing witchcraft in Scotland during a hunt that lasted nearly two centuries – and the majority of those sentenced to death and executed were women. Many were also tortured.

Now a bill proposed in the Scottish Parliament is trying to set the record straight, said Natalie Don, a Scottish legislator who introduced the proposal. It could grant posthumous pardons to thousands of women convicted hundreds of years ago.

The pardon would see them “recognized as victims of a miscarriage of justice and no longer as criminals in history,” Don said in a video on Thursday.

Calls for legal pardons for “witches” or “necromancers” have gained momentum in Scotland, where the country’s top politician, Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon, issued a formal apology in March to those defamed under the Witchcraft Act. . The law, in effect from 1563 to 1736, made the practice of witchcraft punishable by death.

“It was injustice on a colossal scale, at least in part driven by misogyny,” Sturgeon said on International Women’s Day. “They were accused and killed because they were poor, different, vulnerable or in many cases simply because they were women.”

The History of Witch Hunts in America and Europe

For example, in an incident in 1679, six people called the Bo’ness Witches were accused of meeting the devil. According to historians, they were strangled and burned at the stake.

Documents confirm about 12,000 witch executions, most from 1580 to 1650, a historian found in a… timeline about the witch hunts of Europe, where some countries have pardoned. In more than three centuries since the Salem witch trials in Massachusetts, many were officially approved in the United States.

In Scotland, at least 2,500 people were convicted and executed between 1563 and 1736 on charges of practicing witchcraft, Don said.

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Witches of Scotland, a group campaigning for those convicted under the 1563 Act, welcomed the proposal.

“We are hopeful that this will bring posthumous justice to the thousands of people executed by the state during the witch hunts,” a statement published by British media said.

The legislation was about more than tackling the past, the group and the legislature said.

“This will also send a signal to other countries around the world where witchcraft allegations are a very real and topical issue that this is not acceptable in the modern day,” the Witches of Scotland said.

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