Kenya starvation cult leader to undergo mental health checks


A cult leader arrested in Kenya over 400 deaths must undergo mental health checks before being charged, a judge has said.

Paul Mackenzie was detained in April last year after hundreds of bodies were found in mass graves.

Most showed signs of starvation, but some – children among them – may have been assaulted.

MacKenzie, a self-proclaimed pastor accused of leading a doomsday cult, has denied responsibility for the deaths.

Prosecutors have said they will charge him and 94 others with murder, manslaughter, terrorism and torture.

But on Wednesday, they asked a court in the coastal town of Malindi for more time in order to determine if MacKenzie and 30 other suspects are mentally fit to stand trial.

Justice Mugure Thande granted this request, giving the prosecution 14 days to perform the evaluations.

The hearing will resume on 6 February.

In a case that stunned not only Kenyans but people across the world, the bodies of 429 people, including children, were dug up from grave sites in Shakahola, a remote forest about two hours’ drive west of Malindi.

Mackenzie is alleged to have encouraged members of his Good News International Church to move there and prepare for the end of the world.

One witness told the BBC that people were given instructions in January last year to begin fasting so that they could “get to heaven”.

But Mackenzie has said the deaths could not be blamed on him as he closed his church in 2019.

He was sentenced last November to 12 months in prison for producing and distributing films without a licence.

His lawyer said he would appeal against the ruling.


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