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11 Jan, 2024 09:03

Kenyan doomsday cult case prosecutors face deadline

Paul Mackenzie is suspected of ordering hundreds of his followers to starve to death
Kenyan doomsday cult case prosecutors face deadline

Kenyan authorities have been given 14 days to prosecute a suspected death-cult leader, Paul Mackenzie, who was arrested for the alleged murder of hundreds of his followers, or to face the prospect of releasing him.

Prosecutors have asked the court for permission to continue detention of the man and his accomplices while they conclude an investigation that has been ongoing for months, since their arrests in April.

However, Shanzu Senior Principal Magistrate Yusuf Shikanda noted that since the last extension application, the suspects had been detained for 117 days, which was sufficient for the investigations to be completed.

“This is the longest pre-charge detention in the history of the country,” adding, “In my view, that is sufficient time within which the pending investigations ought to have been completed,” he said.

Local media reported in April that four individuals had committed suicide due to Mackenzie’s preaching that they would encounter Jesus by starving themselves. An additional 11 of Mackenzie’s followers were admitted to the hospital.

Following that, the preacher was detained on April 14. According to authorities, 429 bodies and dozens of graves were found in a remote Shakahola forest area. During the autopsy, it was revealed that the majority of the victims died of starvation; however, some, including children, were allegedly beaten or strangled.

Based on the testimony given to police, the pastor told his followers that the fast is only valid if “they gather together.” In order to enter heaven, Mackenzie allegedly claimed, they were not allowed to interact with anyone from the outside world and needed to destroy all documents given by the government, including birth certificates and national IDs.

Prosecutors have indicated they will make a case for terrorism, murder, assisted suicide, kidnapping, extremism, genocide, crimes against humanity, child abuse, fraud, and money laundering against Mackenzie and his aides.

Meanwhile, the self-proclaimed pastor was accused of extreme sermons in 2017 and was also investigated for the death of two children in 2019 who were believed to be exhausted, strangled, and buried in the Shakahola forest. However, in the first case, the defendant was acquitted and, in the second case, released on bail pending trial.

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