Kenyan Christian cult leader Paul Nthenge Mackenzie and 29 other suspects were charged with the murder of 191 children on Tuesday morning by the Malindi High Court.
The children’s bodies were exhumed from Shakahola forest in eastern Kenya last year where Mackenzie and his associates are accused of running a death cult. Authorities exhumed over 400 bodies from the sprawling forest after months of search efforts.
Mackenzie and the 29 others pleaded not guilty to the charges. One suspect was found mentally unfit to stand trial.
Mackenzie faces several other charges including terrorism, manslaughter and child cruelty. His trial begins on March 7.
Mackenzie, who ran the Good News International Church, is accused of leading a doomsday cult where he instructed his mass followers to starve themselves and their children to death so they could reach heaven.
Investigators allege the cult was preparing for the end of the world under the instructions of Mackenzie. He has remained in custody since last April as investigators spent months combing the forest for evidence.
Autopsy results showed that many of the recovered bodies had died from starvation while others had signs of blunt trauma and strangulation.
Last month, a court threatened to release Mackenzie if the state prosecutor did not bring charges against him. Prosecutors said they faced a lengthy process to identify victims through DNA due to the severe decomposition of the majority of bodies.
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