A Kenyan court on Wednesday extended by 30 days the detention of cult leader Paul Mackenzie, whom authorities accuse of ordering his followers to starve themselves and their children.
The death toll has risen to 133 and hundreds of people are still missing. Authorities continue to search for human remains in shallow graves scattered through a forest where Mackenzie’s followers lived.
Mackenzie, the leader of Good News International Church, has yet to plead guilty after turning himself in to police last month. A lawyer representing Mackenzie, George Kariuki, has said the self-proclaimed pastor is cooperating with investigators.
Magistrate Yusuf Shikanda told a hearing in the port city of Mombasa that Mackenzie and 17 other people detained in connection with the mass killings would not be granted bail for fear their release would jeopardize investigations.
«While mindful of the defendants’ right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, I believe there is reasonable suspicion that the defendants may have committed the crimes under investigation,» Shikanda said.
Wycliffe Makasembo, a lawyer for Mackenzie and his wife, who is also in custody, said he would appeal the decision.
“The ruling was not within the law. It violates the constitutional rights of our clients,” Makasembo told Reuters.
Mackenzie was arrested earlier this year on suspicion of the murder of two children by starvation and suffocation, but was later released on bail.
Relatives of his supporters say that after he was released, he returned to the Shakahola forest and brought up the expected doomsday date, which had previously fallen in August, to April 15.
Mackenzie turned himself in to police on April 14 after police first raided the woods where Good News International Church was located, rescuing 15 people who were starving.