The boy, who was born in Cameroon, was found “cold, frightened and covered in bruises” by a warden at the carpark of a hotel in Yvelines, west of Paris, in the early hours of Saturday morning, French daily Le Parisien reported.
Both the boy’s father, aged 33, and aunt, aged 24, have admitted to beating the child. His aunt told local family division police investigators they attacked the boy and abandoned him because, "he was bewitched”, according to a source quoted by France 3 TV.
The boy himself told investigators that he had suffered physical abuse by his aunt since she arrived from Cameroon at the end of February. The woman had become suspicious of her nephew, and wanted to rid him of “evil spirits”, before baptizing him.
“He was forced to hold out his arms and tilt his head back,” said one police officer. “While his aunt beat him with a bat, his father whipped him with a belt,” the officer told France 3.
The eight-year-old’s mother was reported to have disagreed with the attempted exorcism, but did nothing to prevent the attacks.
The father and aunt were charged on Monday with “acts of violence” and “abandonment of a minor”. The boy himself has been placed with a foster family.
In recent years, Cameroon – where 'practising witchcraft' is outlawed – has experienced an increase in cases of children being violently assaulted and even executed after accusations of demonic possession, according to a 2010 UNICEF report.