Kenyan Cult Leader Is Charged in the Deaths of 191 Children

Kenyan Cult Leader Is Charged in the Deaths of 191 Children

A doomsday cult leader whom the Kenyan authorities say ordered his congregants to starve themselves to death was charged on Tuesday, along with 29 others, with the murder of 191 children — in a case that has drawn global attention and brought widespread scrutiny over religious freedoms in the East African nation.

The decision, by a court in the coastal town of Malindi, was handed down almost a month after a judge ordered that the cult leader, Paul Nthenge Mackenzie, and his co-accused undergo mental health evaluations before facing any charges.

Only one of the suspects was deemed mentally unfit to stand trial. Mr. Mackenzie, a pastor, and the other accused pleaded not guilty and are scheduled to appear before a court in early March.

Since last April, hundreds of bodies have been exhumed from the 800-acre Shakahola Forest, where Mr. Mackenzie and his followers lived, with many buried in shallow graves. Dozens of other followers have been rescued, and hundreds more are missing, according to local officials.

The country’s interior minister, Kithure Kindiki, last week declared the pastor’s church, Good News International Ministries, “an organized criminal group.”

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