Doomsday cult leader Paul Mackenzie goes on trial after deaths of over 400 followers in Kenya

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The leader of a doomsday cult in Kenya went on trial on Monday on charges of terrorism over the deaths of more than 400 of his followers in a macabre case that shocked the world.

Self-proclaimed pastor Paul Nthenge Mackenzie appeared in a packed courtroom in the Indian Ocean port city of Mombasa along with 94 co-defendants.

Principle magistrate Leah Juma ordered the removal of journalists from the court shortly after the start of the hearing to enable a protected witness to take the stand on camera.

Mackenzie, who was arrested in April last year, is alleged to have incited his acolytes to starve to death in order to “meet Jesus” in one of the world’s worst cult-related massacres.

The father of seven and his co-accused pleaded not guilty to the charges of terrorism at a hearing in January.

The 55 men and 40 women also face charges of murder, manslaughter, as well as child torture and cruelty in separate cases.

The remains of more than 440 people have been unearthed so far in a remote wilderness inland from the Indian Ocean coastal town of Malindi, in a case that has been dubbed the “Shakahola forest massacre.”

Autopsies have found that while starvation appeared to be the main cause of death, some of the victims — including children — were strangled, beaten, or suffocated. In February, Mackenzie pleaded not guilty to the murder of 191 children whose bodies were found in mass graves.

Previous court documents also said that some of the bodies had had their organs removed.

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