Kenyan preacher at centre of deadly doomsday cult found guilty
Paul Mackenzie, the Kenyan preacher at the centre of a doomsday cult that led to the deaths of more than 400 people, was found guilty on Friday, but not of their killings.
The senior resident magistrate in the town of Malindi, Olga Onalo, instead found Mackenzie guilty of operating a TV studio and distributing films without a licence from the Kenya Film Classification Board.
The preacher has been in police custody for more than six months now since he was arrested in April, following the discovery of hundreds of bodies in mass graves in a forested area across his 800-acre property in the coastal county of Kilifi.
Prosecutors say Mackenzie ordered his congregants to starve to death in order to meet Jesus.
However, he has not been formally charged over the deaths, despite being arraigned in court on numerous occasions since his arrest.
The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions tweeted on Friday that Mackenzie is the “prime suspect.”
And on Friday he was acquitted of additional charges of influencing children to not attend school and using radical preaching to incite Christians against Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims.
He will be sentenced for the film-related offences on Dec. 1 and could face up to five years in prison.
On Thursday, prosecutors applied to have Mackenzie held in custody for six more months to allow police to complete their investigations which include the search for dozens of people still missing.
Since his arrest, there have been growing calls for the government to regulate churches in Kenya.
A Malindi court this Friday convicted Shakahola massacre prime suspect Paul Mackenzie Nthenge for illegally operating a film studio associated with his radical preaching. Senior Resident Magistrate Hon. Olga Onalo found Mackenzie guilty of conducting exhibitions of films to the public through Times Television without the approval of the Kenya Film Classification Board. He was charged with operating a filming studio and producing films without a valid filming licence from the Kenya Classification Board, contrary to Section 4 of the Films and Stage Play Act, Cap. 222 of the laws of Kenya. Hon. Onalo further found him guilty of being in possession of and distributing films that have not been classified, contrary to Section 12 of the Films and Stage Plays Act, Cap. 222. Makenzie committed both offenses jointly with others not before court on 11th January 2019 and 11th April, 2019, at Good News International Church in Malindi Township, Malindi Sub-County, within Kilifi County. In her ruling, Hon. Onalo stated that the prosecution, through Senior Prosecution Counsel Joseph Mwangi and Prosecution Counsel Kennedy Kirui proved the case against Mackenzie beyond any reasonable doubt. The court ruled that the accused failed to dislodge himself from the evidence of the four prosecution witnesses and exhibits, including videos of Mackenzie’s radical preaching. The court ruled that Mackenzie admitted that Times Television belonged to his church, Good News International, where detectives recovered DVD films containing sermons on end-time items in his office. However, the trial magistrate acquitted him of the offence of inciting children against attending school and further using the films to incite Christians against Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims based on their religion. The court also ordered that a pre-sentence report be filed by the Probation and Aftercare Services to capture the sentiments of the complainant, which is the prosecution. The prosecution was also directed to file submissions on sentencing. The case will be mentioned on 1st Dec. 2023.