Originally Published: 10 JAN 24 09:04 ET
By Bethlehem Feleke, CNN
Nairobi, Kenya (CNN) — A Kenyan court has threatened to release alleged Christian cult leader Paul Nthenge Mackenzie if the state prosecutor does not charge him within two weeks.
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 who has denied any wrongdoing. He has remained in custody since last April as investigators spent months combing the forest for evidence.
Senior Magistrate Yusuf Abdallah Shikanda said the state had 14 days to charge Mackenzie or “the court will consider releasing the respondents from custody on terms that will be determined by the court,” in a ruling on Tuesday.
“It has been a long journey that must come to an end, at least for this phase,” Shikanda said.
So far, 429 dead bodies have been found in the isolated Shakahola forest in eastern Kenya where Mackenzie and his followers were living, according to the office of the director of public prosecutions.
Many of the recovered bodies had died from starvation while others had signs of blunt trauma and strangulation, autopsy results showed.
In September, that office sought to hold Mackenzie and 29 other suspects for an additional 180 days in order to process the victims’ DNA, a lengthy and delicate process due to the severe decomposition of the majority of bodies, prosecutors said.
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Suspected Kenyan cult leader Paul Mackenzie is pictured in an undated photo.
10 Jan 24