Kenyan pastor freed on bail over cult massacre



One of Kenya’s highest profile pastors was released on bail on Thursday after appearing in court in con-nection with the horrific discovery last month of dozens of bodies in mass graves.

Ezekiel Odero, a wealthy televangelist who boasts a huge following, is being investigated on a raft of charges including murder, aiding suicide, abduction, radicalisation, crimes against humanity, child cruelty, fraud and money laundering.

Prosecutors accuse Odero of links to cult leader Paul Nthenge Mackenzie, who is in custody facing terrorism charges over the deaths of more than 100 people, many of them children, in what has been dubbed the “Shakahola forest massacre”.

Mackenzie, the head of the Good News Interna-tional Church, is alleged to have incited his followers to starve to death in order to “meet Jesus” in a case that has deeply shocked Kenyans. Police had sought to detain Odero, who is popularly known as Pastor Ezekiel, for another 30 days to complete their investigations. But magistrate Joe Omido ordered him released on bail of 1.5 million Kenyan shillings (about $11,000), saying he had to report to police once a week and not speak about the case.

“By failing to provide adequate information on the status of the investigation as ordered by the court, I’m persuaded that the state did not act in good faith in seeking to continue detaining the respondent,” he said.—AFP