Africa

Suspected doomsday cult leader faces charges in deaths of 429 people

A pastor and dozens of others are facing charges after the church allegedly preached fasting until death.

Pastor Paul Mackenzie, an alleged cult leader, appears in court.
AP
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Kenya's top prosecutor on Tuesday ordered that 95 people from a doomsday cult be charged with murder, cruelty, child torture and other crimes in the deaths of 429 people believed to be members of the church.

The country's director of public prosecutions, Mulele Ingonga, was responding to pressure from a magistrate in the coastal county of Kilifi who told the prosecution to charge the suspects within two weeks or the court would release them.

For months since the arrests last April, prosecutors had asked the court for permission to keep holding church leader Paul Mackenzie and 28 others while they looked into the case that shocked Kenyans with the discovery of mass graves and allegations of starvation and strangulation.

Principal Magistrate Yousuf Shikanda declined the latest request to hold the suspects for an additional 60 days, saying the prosecution had been given enough time to complete investigations.

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The case emerged when police rescued 15 emaciated parishioners from Mackenzie's church in Kilifi county in Kenya's southeast. Four died after the group was taken to a hospital.

Survivors told investigators the pastor had instructed them to fast to death before the world ends so they could meet Jesus.

A search of the remote, forested area found dozens of mass graves, authorities have said. Autopsies on some bodies showed starvation, strangulation or suffocation.

Other charges that the suspects will face include manslaughter, radicalization, assault causing grievous bodily harm and engaging in organized criminal activity.

Mackenzie is serving a separate one-year prison sentence after being found guilty of operating a film studio and producing films without a valid license.