Shanzu Begins Radicalization Case Against Pastor Paul Mackenzie and Acolytes

July 9, 2024

The Shanzu court has started the radicalization case against pastor Paul Mackenzie and his coaccused followers.

Paul Mackenzie and 94 others are facing 13 counts of terrorism-related offenses linked to the Shakahola mass starvation incident, where the cult leader, through his church Good News International Ministries, allegedly incited at least 429 people to starve themselves to death, believing they would meet Jesus.

To accommodate over 60 witnesses expected to testify, marathon hearing dates have been scheduled from July 8-11 and July 22-25, 2024.

Presiding over the case, Shanzu Principal Magistrate Leah Juma emphasized the importance of adhering to these timelines for expeditious justice delivery amid stringent security measures to protect the witnesses.

“All parties must be prepared to proceed. Any applications must be filed with sufficient notice,” she stressed.

During Monday’s session, the first protected witness testified under heavy security measures, with the courtroom sealed off from the media and public to ensure safety and confidentiality.

Shortly after the hearing commenced, Juma ordered journalists to leave the packed courtroom in Mombasa to facilitate the testimony of a protected witness, which was to be captured on camera.

The prosecution alleges that between 2020 and 2023, Mackenzie and his followers orchestrated organized criminal activities in Shakahola Forest, Kilifi County, endangering lives and resulting in the deaths of over 429 followers through radical practices such as fatal fasting.

Promoting Extreme Belief System

Mackenzie and his co-accused are charged with promoting an extreme belief system to facilitate ideologically-driven violence, as well as transporting followers between Shakahola Forest and Malindi Township, further jeopardizing their lives. Additionally, he and two others are accused of possessing CDs, DVDs, books, and pamphlets intended to incite terrorism.

Magistrate Juma directed the probation department to expedite the preparation of pre-bail reports for the remaining 35 out of the 95 accused individuals.

The probation team was granted an additional 21 days to finalize these reports, crucial in determining whether Mackenzie and his co-accused should be granted bail.

The prosecution has opposed the suspects’ release, citing the severity of the charges and the risk of further radicalization.

Furthermore, the court will schedule a ruling on the prosecution’s motion to contest bail for Mackenzie and his co-accused.

Juma also instructed Shimo la Tewa Prison authorities to ensure immediate medical attention for three accused persons reportedly on a hunger strike. The court ordered a medical report on their condition to be submitted at the next mention date.

Additional witnesses are slated to testify in the coming weeks.

In January, Mackenzie, a father of seven, and his co-accused entered not-guilty pleas to charges of terrorism.

Additionally, the group of 55 men and 40 women are also facing charges of murder, manslaughter, as well as child torture and cruelty in separate cases.

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