SAccording to AFP, the pastor and 29 other defendants declared themselves innocent when appearing before a court in the city of Malindi, ten months after the revelation of this case that shocked Kenya.
One person was considered mentally unfit to stand trial following psychiatric evaluations.
Paul Nthenge Mackenzie had already pleaded not guilty to previous charges brought against him, including those of “facilitating the commission of a terrorist act”, “possession of an article relating to an offense under the Prevention of Terrorism Act”, ” participation in organized crime” and “radicalization”, formally pronounced on January 18th, “involuntary homicide” on January 23rd and “torture” and “cruelty” of children on January 25th.
This former taxi driver, who became a pastor, has been in pre-trial detention since April 14, one day after the discovery of the first victims in the Shakahola forest (southeast Kenya) where the International Church of Good News is located, which Paul Nthenge Mackenzie founded in 2010.
The defendant advocated that his followers fast to death to “find Jesus” before the end of the world.
The investigation carried out in Shakahola, a vast area of bushland on the Kenyan coast, led to the exhumation of 429 bodies, some that had been buried for several years.
Autopsies revealed that most of the victims died of starvation. Some, including children, were strangled, beaten or suffocated.
The revelation of this scandal, called the “Shakahola massacre”, put the Kenyan authorities under fire for failing to prevent the actions of the pastor, who, however, was arrested several times for his extreme preaching.
In a report published in October, a senatorial commission highlighted “failures” in the justice system and the police in 2017 and 2019.
In July, Interior Minister Kithure Kindiki called the Shakahola massacre “the worst security breach in the history” of Kenya.
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