Testimony given in camera as Mackenzie trial begins

Paul Mackenzie

Paul Mackenzie (left) speaks to his lawyer Lawrence Obonyo at Shanzu Law Court in Mombasa County on July 8, 2024. 

Photo credit: Wachira Mwangi | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Shanzu Principal Magistrate Leah Juma said she will expedite delivery of justice.
  • Mackenzie and 94 others are charged with engaging in organised criminal activity.

The media was barred from covering proceedings on the first day of the trial of suspected cult leader Paul Mackenzie, accused of radicalising hundreds of his followers to fast to their deaths.

The first witness, a minor, was required to take the court through the events that occurred in the Shakahola forest in Kilifi County between 2022 and 2023.

The witness was guided by a team of prosecutors led by Mombasa Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions Peter Kiprop.

The media was barred from covering the proceedings after the prosecution stated that the witness needed protection.

Shanzu Principal Magistrate Leah Juma will hear the case for four consecutive days ending on July 11.

She will then take a break for 11 days before another three days hearing from July 22 to 25.

Prior to hearing the witness testimony in camera, Ms Juma said that she will expedite delivery of justice and directed parties to adhere to the set timelines.

“All parties to be ready to proceed, if not, sufficient notices to be given to all. Any party intending to file applications, sufficient notice be given upon filing in court,” she said. 

Ms Juma further ordered the probation department to expedite preparation of pre-bail reports. She granted an additional 21 days to the probation team to complete the reports on the remaining 35 out of 95 accused persons.

The pre-bail reports will guide the court in determining an application by the prosecution opposing the release of Mackenzie and his co-accused on bond in the current trial.

The suspects have been denied bond in other cases facing them in different courts.

At the same time, Ms Juma directed Shimo la Tewa Prison authorities to take three accused persons to hospital after it was disclosed that they had started fasting while in detention.

She directed that the medical report on the three be availed in court on the mention date.

Mackenzie and 94 others are charged with engaging in organised criminal activity, radicalisation and facilitating the commission of a terrorist act.

The Good News International Church, associated with Mackenzie, is believed to have provided a platform for radicalising hundreds of followers who later perished while fasting.

Mackenzie, his wife Rhoda Mumbua Maweu and 93 others have denied four terror related offenses.

Mackenzie, Ms Maweu, Smart Mwakalama and his wife Mary Kadzo Kahindi and 28 others were charged with the offence of engaging in organised criminal activity thereby endangering lives and leading to the death of 429 people.

Another group consisting of Baron Chahenza and 63 others is charged with radicalisation, with the State accusing them of adopting an extreme belief system for the facilitation of ideologically based violence (fasting to death).

Mackenzie and Mwakalama have been separately charged with facilitating commission of a terrorist act by transporting members and followers between Shakahola forest and Malindi town.

Mackenzie and his wife have been additionally charged with being in possession of materials for use in instigating the commission of a terrorist act.