Prosecutors had requested that Odero’s detention be extended for 30 days so that investigators could continue their investigation. They emphasized that this famous and wealthy evangelist is “an influential person at the head of thousands of believers” and “if he is released, he is likely to influence the witnesses.”
A court on Thursday ordered the release on bail of the influential priest Ezequiel Odero, who was arrested last week as part of an investigation into the deaths of 109 people in the jungles of southeastern Kenya.
Investigators suspect that some followers of his New Life church were among the victims of the Chakahola Forest Massacre, the case that has been rocking this religious country in East Africa for several weeks.
More than a hundred bodies, most of them children, were found in this forest on the Kenyan coast, where he was meeting with followers of an evangelical denomination headed by Rev. Paul Nthingi Mackenzie. The latter was calling for the practice of severe fasting to “meet Jesus” and he will be tried for “terrorism” with 17 other people.
On Friday, prosecutors requested an extension of Odero’s detention for a period of 30 days so that investigators could continue their investigation. They emphasized that this famous and wealthy evangelist is “an influential person at the head of thousands of believers” and “if he is released, he is likely to influence the witnesses.”
For their part, Odero’s lawyers denounced his arrest without “any evidence” or “complaint”. “Because insufficient information was provided on the investigation (…) I am satisfied that the state did not act in good faith in seeking to keep him (in detention),” Judge Joe Omido of the Mombasa District Court said.
He was released on a bail of 10,000 euros, obligated to report to the police station once a week, and prevented from dealing with the case. However, this step does not mean abandoning the investigations against him on charges of “murder”, “assisted suicide”, “kidnapping”, “extremism”, “crimes against humanity”, “child abuse” and “fraud and money laundering”.
Prosecutors cited “compelling new reasons” for keeping him in prison after the first autopsies at Chakahola, where, according to the results of forensic examinations conducted on the first 40 bodies, most of the victims died from lack of food while others suffered suffocation or suffocation. One of the bodies bore marks of blows with a blunt object.