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"Last witch in Europe" cleared

The central canton of Glarus has officially exonerated Anna Göldi, more than two centuries after she was beheaded for poisoning a child.

Regarded as the last witch to be executed in Europe, Anna Göldi's case in the village of Mollis in 1782 was a tragic illustration of religious fanaticism, superstition and the abuse of power.

The Glarus government on Wednesday declared Göldi innocent, the first time in Europe a "witch" has been rehabilitated, according to local journalist and lawyer Walter Hauser.

Göldi, a 48-year-old servant in the house of prominent citizen Johann Jakob Tschudi, was convicted of "bewitching" the family's eight-year-old daughter, causing her to spit pins and have convulsions.

Tschudi, a doctor and magistrate, apparently had sexual relations with Göldi and his reputation would have been seriously damaged if the adultery became public.

Göldi's trial and beheading in 1782 was carried out at a time when witch trials had disappeared from the rest of Europe. The last women to be executed for witchcraft in Germany died in 1738.

The Protestant Church council, which conducted the trial, had no legal authority and had decided in advance that the woman was guilty, said a strongly worded statement from the Glarus administration in June. She was executed even though the law at the time did not impose the death penalty for nonlethal poisoning, it added.

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