Kenyan preacher Paul Nthenge Mackenzie, associated with a doomsday cult that led to over 400 deaths after instructing church members to fast in anticipation of “meeting Jesus,” has been found guilty of operating a film studio without the required license.
Olga Onalo, the senior resident magistrate in Malindi, has convicted Mackenzie for unauthorized film exhibition through his Times Television, bypassing the Kenya Film Classification Board, according to The Associated Press.
Despite being in custody for over six months since his arrest in April, Mackenzie is not facing charges related to the deaths discovered on his 800-acre property in Kilifi County, where mass graves containing hundreds of bodies were found.
The preacher, who advocated starvation as a means to meet Jesus, managed to avoid additional charges of influencing children against schooling and inciting religious hatred. Sentencing for the film-related offenses is scheduled for December 1, potentially resulting in a five-year prison term, as reported by the AP.
Prosecutors have sought extended custody to allow the police to conclude investigations, including tracing missing individuals. Mackenzie’s arrest and the subsequent raid on Shakahola forest, prompted by reports of starvation under his influence, have triggered calls for stricter church regulation in Kenya.
The cult, recognized for its reimagined “Holy Land” featuring biblically named villages, has faced scrutiny since the BBC reported accounts from escapee children detailing family deaths due to starvation, a narrative supported by former cult members.
Stephen Mwiti, interviewed by the British broadcaster, shared the story of his wife, Bahati Joan, who believed in the prophecy and disappeared from Malindi, southeast Kenya, with their six children last August.