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Salem may pardon accused witches of 1692

SALEM -- Pardoning those who were persecuted during the witch hysteria in this city in the 17th century ''sounds like a good idea," the mayor said.

Stanley Usovicz was intrigued by a Scottish township's plan to pardon 81 people who were executed for witchcraft there, The Salem News reported.

The township of Prestonpans will pardon people and their cats who were executed during a wave of hysteria and religious ferment in the 16th and 17th centuries.

The pardons were expected to be granted under ancient feudal powers due to be abolished within weeks.

More than 3,500 Scots, mainly women and children, and their cats were killed in witch hunts. Many were condemned on flimsy evidence, such as owning a black cat or brewing homemade remedies.

During Salem's witch scare in 1692, 19 people were hanged, and one was pressed to death with heavy stones for allegedly practicing witchcraft. By the end of that year, 200 people were jailed under charges of witchcraft.

In 1957, many of the accused Salem witches were exonerated by the Massachusetts Legislature.

Usovicz said one of the judges apologized for his role in the trials about eight years after they concluded, but he was not sure there had ever been an official declaration by the city.

A good date for such a pardon might be in 2007, Usovicz said, the 315th anniversary of the Salem Witch Trials. ''But I would suggest that any time is a good time."

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