Authorities in Kenya have brought attempted suicide charges against 65 survivors of a Christian cult after they rejected food at a rescue center that was holding them. According to the BBC, the survivors are reportedly followers of Pastor Paul Mackenzie.
The pastor, who is currently in custody and said to be a cult leader, is accused of making his followers, including children, starve to death so they could go to heaven. Authorities in the East African nation have exhumed 280 bodies from graves at the pastor’s Shakahola forest base. Ten bodies were also recovered on Monday.
Autopsies carried out on the deceased followers revealed that their main cause of death was starvation, while others were strangled, beaten, or suffocated.
During Monday’s court session, the prosecution asked that the accused survivors be remanded in prison so they could undergo mental and medical assessments; arguing that the rescue center was unable to continue holding them. The court is expected to give its decision on the application later this week.
British colonizers made attempted suicide a criminal offense before Kenya’s independence in 1963, per the BBC. Though England repealed the law over 60 years ago, its former East African colony still enforces it. However, campaigners in Kenya have been advocating for the annulment of the law in their country.
Meanwhile, authorities in Uganda have also reported that Ethiopia has repatriated 80 Ugandan religious cult members after their pastor allegedly persuaded them to make their way to the Horn of Africa nation to starve themselves.
The cult leader, identified as Simon Opolot, is said to have told the congregation at his Christ Disciples Church to fast for 40 days, adding that they would “meet Jesus Christ” afterward, BBC reported.
“The returnees have said Pastor Opolot convinced them to fast for 40 days so that they can meet Jesus on the 41st day,” the spokesperson for Uganda’s internal affairs ministry, Simon Mundeyi, reportedly said.
“The condition was that to meet Jesus, they needed to be in Ethiopia, and according to him, the world would immediately end.”
Authorities are currently searching for Opolot.