Kenyan cult leader and self-proclaimed pastor Paul Nthenge Mackenzie, who appeared in court on Tuesday, will be tried under terrorism charges for causing the starvation and death of more than 100 people in what has been dubbed the “Shakahola forest massacre”.
The prosecutors said that the accused will also face charges of murder, kidnapping, and cruelty towards children among other crimes, AFP news agency reported.
During the brief hearing, the court in Malindi decided to move the case to the high court in Kenya’s second-largest city of Mombasa after the request of the prosecutor.
“There is a court (in Mombasa) that is gazetted to handle cases under the prevention of terrorism act,” prosecutor Vivian Kambaga told a magistrate.
Mackenzie, who set up the Good News International Church in 2003, is accused of inciting followers to starve to death “to meet Jesus”.
The deeply religious East African country, which has a Christian majority population, was stunned last month after the mass graves were discovered in a forest near the Indian Ocean coastal town of Malindi.
After finding 30 mass graves, the police, acting on a tip-off nabbed the former taxi driver on April 14. A total of 109 people have so far been confirmed dead, most of them children. The first autopsies from Shakahola were carried out on Monday on nine children and one woman.
The authorities confirmed that their death was caused by starvation, though some victims were asphyxiated.