- A Kenyan court has granted police a five-day extension to detain without bail pastor Paul Mackenzie, who faces terrorism charges over the death of at least 110 faithful.
- Mackenzie allegedly started a cult, where she convinced followers who resided on an 800-acre coastal property to starve to “meet Jesus.”
- A second pastor with ties to Mackenzie, Ezekiel Odero, who also had several churchgoers die in an unrelated incident, was released on 3 million shillings ($22,000) bail.
A court in Kenya on Friday gave police five more days to detain a pastor who faces possible terrorism-related charges in the deaths of more than 100 of his worshipers, many believed to have died of starvation.
Last month, police rescued 15 emaciated parishioners from Paul Mackenzie’s 800-acre Kilifi County property. Four of them died after the group was taken to the hospital, and the survivors told investigators the pastor had instructed them to fast to death before the world ended so they could meet Jesus.
A search of Mackenzie’s property, located in a remote wooded area, found more than 100 bodies and dozens of dug mass graves, authorities said. Autopsies on the bodies were ongoing, but completed ones showed that some of the people buried had died of starvation, strangulation or suffocation.
KENYA SHEPHERDS APPEAR IN COURT FOR DEATH OF FOLLOWERS AND HUNGER CULT
Mackenzie was arrested two weeks ago for alleged cult ties. A lower court freed him this week, but he was re-arrested and presented to a higher court. Police said their investigations pointed to signs of radicalisation.
The court that ordered Mackenzie’s detention for an additional five days is considering a request for an additional 90 days in detention.
The pastor has been arrested twice before – in 2019 and March of this year – in connection with the deaths of children. He was released on bail both times and those cases are still progressing through the justice system.
On Friday, Kenyan President William Ruto formed a commission of inquiry into the deaths.
Ruto instructed the committee to establish the circumstances under which people died and to identify other individuals and organizations who could take responsibility and make recommendations.
The country’s broadcasting regulator, the Kenya Film and Classification Board, raised the alarm in 2017 that Mackenzie’s broadcast content could promote radicalisation. Former council president, Ezekiel Mutua, told local media the content was taken off the air and law enforcement officials were notified.
1 OF 2 KENYAN PASTORDS OF THE HUNGER CULT IN PROBE ELIGIBLE FOR RELEASE ON BOND
Another pastor from the same county, Ezekiel Odero, was arrested last week in connection with the deaths of worshipers at his coastal mega-church. A court on Thursday said Odero could be released from prison if he posts bail in the amount of 3 million Kenyan shillings (about $22,000) or cash bail of 1.5 million shillings ($11,000).
Odero’s lawyers acknowledged after his arrest that 15 people died at his church, but said the deaths were reported to a police station as required by law. Police said there was currently no evidence to suggest a crime was involved.
The pastor remains under investigation for his ties to Mackenzie, from whom he bought a television channel in 2019.
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Kenya’s National Communications Authority last week suspended Odero’s TV channel for broadcasting inappropriate content about exorcism during hours when adult programming is not permitted.