The head of the New Life Church, Ezequiel Odero, who was arrested Thursday “and is subject to judicial trials”, is suspected of murder, assisted suicide, kidnapping, extremism, crimes against humanity, child abuse, fraud and money laundering.
Forensic experts Monday began autopsies on more than 100 bodies found in mass graves linked to a Kenyan priest accused of inciting his followers to starve to death.
“Officially, the autopsy begins immediately,” Interior Minister Keithor Kindeke told reporters outside a hospital morgue in the coastal city of Malindi.
“We are here to witness a very crucial stage… It is expected that this process will take about a week if all goes well,” he said.
Investigators will also take DNA samples to help establish the identities of the dead, although final results could take months, according to the government’s chief physician, Johansen Odur.
Dozens of bodies, most of them children, were found in mass graves in the nearby Chakhola forest.
However, the number of victims of 109, which includes a number of people who were found alive but died while being transported to hospital, is not final.
“The process of exhuming the bodies has been suspended temporarily because the experts told us that when it rains, this process cannot continue,” Kindecki said.
A thorough investigation was launched into the Good News International Church group headed by Paul MacKenzie Nthingi who said that starvation sends followers to God.
But Kennedy said on Friday that initial reports indicated that “some of the victims may not have died of starvation. Other methods were used, including harming them.”
The discovery of the bodies has sent shockwaves through Kenya – all the more so after the announcement last week that a televised missionary would face charges of “mass killing” his followers.
The head of the New Life Church, Ezequiel Odero, who was arrested Thursday and is “subject to judicial trials”, is suspected of murder, assisted suicide, kidnapping, extremism, crimes against humanity, child abuse, fraud and money laundering.
Prosecutor Peter Kiprop said last week that there was “credible information” linking the bodies found in the forest to the deaths of a number of “innocent and vulnerable followers of Odero”.
Kiprop said in court documents that Odero and Nthengi were “partners in business investments” including a television station that was used to broadcast “extremist messages” to their followers.