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13 Jun, 2023 11:30

Sixty-five Kenya cult survivors face attempted suicide charges

Prosecutors said the victims-turned-suspects refused to eat their meals
Sixty-five Kenya cult survivors face attempted suicide charges

Some 65 survivors of the Kenyan Christian cult who were rescued from the Shakahola Forest in Kilifi County are being charged with attempted suicide, local media reports.

They were arraigned in Shanzu law court on Monday for trying to kill themselves by refusing to eat their meals while at the Sajahanadi Rescue Center in Mtwapa.

According to a charge sheet prepared by the country’s public prosecutor’s office and cited by local media, the survivors, who are now suspects, went on hunger strike between June 6 and 10.

The prosecution asked the court on Monday to remand them in prison because the Rescue Center could no longer accommodate them.

"They have now turned into suspects of attempted suicide. It is in prison that they will undergo mental and medical assessment and be forced to eat," the prosecution is quoted by Nairobi-based newspaper The Star as saying. The court is expected to rule on the application on Thursday.

In Kenya, attempted suicide is a criminal offense punishable by two years in prison, a fine, or both, according to Section 226 of the Penal Code. The law was enacted by the British and was passed down to the East African country. The same statute was repealed in England more than 60 years ago, and Kenyan activists have been campaigning for its annulment, arguing that it was imposed by an "outside force."

The 65 defendants are said to be followers of Pastor Paul Mackenzie, the alleged cult leader charged with terrorism for instructing his devotees to fast to death in order to "meet Jesus."

Mackenzie was arrested in April and has been in custody since then. On Monday, investigators exhumed ten more bodies, bringing the total number of victims buried in shallow graves across Mackenzie's 800-acre property in Kenya's Shakahola forest to 284. According to autopsy reports, the majority of the victims, including children, died of starvation, while others were strangled or beaten to death.

The exhumation process is planned to resume on Tuesday.