US state exonerates 12 people convicted of witchcraft

The US state of Connecticut has exonerated 12 people convicted of witchcraft in colonial America almost 400 years ago following a campaign to clear their names.

Eleven of the accused witches were hanged after trials in the northeastern state of Connecticut in the mid-1600s, with one receiving a reprieve.

Lawmakers in the New England state passed a resolution on Thursday proclaiming their innocence and condemning the deaths of the nine women and two men as a “miscarriage of justice.”

It followed a campaign by the CT Witch Trial Exoneration Project, a group that includes descendants of some of those killed.

The group said in a statement that it was “ecstatic, pleased, and appreciative” of the senators who voted 33-1 in favor of the move.

They noted that the decision came on the eve of 376th anniversary of the first witch-hanging in New England — that of Alice Young.

“We are grateful to descendants, advocates, historians, legislators of both parties and many others who made this official resolution possible,” said the statement.

Hundreds of people, mostly women, were accused of witchcraft in New England in the 17th century — most famously in Salem, Massachusetts — as the area was gripped by fear, paranoia and superstition.

Dozens were ultimately executed.

The Connecticut witch trials occurred between 1647 to 1663, ending around 30 years before the Salem witch trials.

Some 34 people were indicted for witchcraft in Connecticut, according to the CT Witch Trial Exoneration Project.

They group added that it “will continue to advocate for historical education and memorialization of the witch trial victims.”

States and countries have made moves in recent years to clear the names of accused witches.

Last year, Massachusetts formally pardoned Elizabeth Johnson, the only person convicted in the Salem trials who had yet to be exonerated.

She had been granted a reprieve and died in her late 70s in the 1740s.

Last year, Scotland’s government issued a formal apology to thousands of women who were executed centuries ago.

Some 4,000 people were accused of witchcraft in Scotland between the 16th and 18th century, with more than 2,500 executed.

They were mostly strangled and then burned, after making confessions that were often extracted under torture.

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