June 20, 2024

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Mass Starvation Deaths: Kenyan Cult Leader Faces Terrorism Charges

Paul Mackenzie, a Kenyan cult leader accused of ordering his followers—members of the Good News International Church—to starve themselves to death in Shakahola forest.

Kenyan cult leader Paul Mackenzie and 94 others were charged Thursday with terrorism-related crimes in connection with the deaths of 429 of his followers, whose bodies were exhumed from the Shakahola forest.

The charges, announced during a court appearance in the southeastern city of Mombasa, are the first leveled against Mackenzie, who was arrested in April after the bodies were discovered.

Mackenzie and his co-defendants denied the charges in their appearance before Judge Joe Omido. They are due back in court on February 8 for a bond hearing.

Relatives of followers of the Good News International Church, a Christian cult that believed they would go to heaven if they starved themselves to death in Shakahola, stand outside the steel gate of the Malindi Sub District Hospital Mortuary in Malindi, Kilifi County, Kenya, on April 27, 2023. (photo credit: REUTERS)

According to authorities, Mackenzie, the leader of the Good News International Church, ordered his followers to starve themselves and their children to death so that they could enter heaven before the world ended.

Mackenzie’s lawyer has stated that the self-styled pastor is cooperating with investigators.

A judge in a different court, in the coastal town of Malindi, ordered on Wednesday that Mackenzie and 30 of his associates undergo mental health evaluations before being charged with murder in connection with 191 deaths.

However, Mackenzie has stated that the deaths cannot be blamed on him, as he closed his church in 2019.

The suspects’ defence lawyer’s bail application has been referred to another court. Prosecutors in Mombasa and Malindi say they will charge the 95 people with manslaughter and torture.

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