The Kumasi Circuit Court has acquitted and discharged a popular Kumasi-based pastor, Odiyifo Kwadwo Atta, who was arraigned on charges of trial by ordeal and indecent assault.
Although the pastor admitted insetting his fingers into the private parts of a 24-year-old woman to remove some cowries which he tendered in evidence, the court upheld his defence that it was done with the consent of the woman's relatives who were physically present.
Odiyifo Atta, who is the Founder and Leader of the Holy Michael Miracle Church and also the Dwantoafohene of the Bechem Traditional Area in the Brong Ahafo Region, was, therefore, acquitted and discharged by the court, presided over by Mr Agyei Frimpong.
A large number of his supporters who thronged the court poured powder on the 48-year-old pastor as a sign of victory after the judge had pronounced the ruling.
The case for the prosecution was that some time in May this year, the woman was sent to the pastor by some of her relatives to be exorcised of witchcraft.
According to the relatives, they had visited a fetish priest who had diagnosed the woman as being possessed by witchcraft.
After taking the woman through spiritual diagnoses, Pastor Atta confirmed that she was, indeed, possessed by witchcraft and hat there were some cowries imbedded in her stomach which must be removed before she would be free.
The pastor then charged the relatives GH¢ 100 and asked them to provide a pair of hand gloves which he would use to remove the cowries through her private parts.
According to the prosecution, the relatives consented and provided the hand gloves and the money.
In the presence of the relatives, the pastor asked the woman to open her legs, which she obliged.
Using the hand gloves, the pastor inserted his fingers into the private parts of the woman and brought out the cowries.
He then asked the woman to stay at the prayer camp for one week for cleansing but she later left the camp.
On leaving the camp, the woman and her relatives went to Rev Ebenezer Adarkwa- Yiadom, who told them that the woman was not a witch and that it was an evil spirit that had tormented her.
The woman lodged a complaint with the police against Odiyifo Atta for wrongfully inserting his fingers into her genitals, after which he was charged.
The woman and her witnesses admitted during the trial that some cowries had been removed from her private parts.
In his defence, Odiyifo Atta admitted inserting his fingers into her private parts but said he had done that with the consent of the victim and her relatives.
Again, his defence was that the spiritual healing was not done in secret but in the full glare of her family members.
Passing judgement, the judge quoted authorities and said what had taken place at Odiyifo Atta's prayer camp did not amount to trial by ordeal.
He explained that trial by ordeal involved inhuman acts, including physical assaults, which had not been present in the case in question.
"The accused did not force the woman to open her legs," Mr Frimpong said, and added that there was evidence that the cowries dropped from her private parts.
Besides, the judge said, in removing the cowries he used hand gloves and not the raw fingers, explaining that if the pastor had had an ulterior motive, he would not have used the gloves.