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31 Shakahola murder suspects arraigned in a Malindi court 

A total of 31 Shakahola murder suspects were Wednesday arraigned in a Malindi court but they were not required to take plea, until a mental assessment is carried out on them.

Malindi High Court Judge, Mugure Thande, ordered the 31, including controversial preacher, Paul Mackenzie and followers of his Good News International Church, to undergo the psychiatric assessment.

Lady Justice Thande, directed the prosecution to produce the accused persons in court on February 6, 2024 for plea taking and ordered the authorities at the Shimo-la-Tewa Maximum Prison to ensure that all the accused persons held in the correctional facility are provided with food.

This is after a lawyer Lead Defence Counsel, Wycliff Makasembo, complained that his clients had not been given food for the last two days.

The accused persons, who are facing 191 counts of murder, were brought to the Malindi law courts from various remand facilities in a police lorry, under heavy security and immediately after the ruling, they were whisked back into the lorry and taken back to remand.

429 persons have been confirmed dead, following the cultic teachings in which Mackenzie is accused of influencing his followers to fast to death, in order to meet Jesus Christ.

Most of the bodies, which were exhumed from mass graves at the 800-acre Shakahola farm, are yet to be identified despite samples taken for DNA tests. The exhumations were done in four phases and it is believed other graves are yet to be opened.

On Wednesday, the prosecution, led by Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions, Victor Mule, asked for fourteen days to allow psychiatrists, to carry out a mental assessment on each of the accused persons before taking plea.

This was, however, opposed by Mr. Makasembo and Mr. James Mouko, who said the two-week period sought by the prosecution, was too long as the assessment could be done in the various facilities within one week.

“The accused persons have been in custody for quite a long time. Let the court grant them bond, so they can go home,” Makasembo pleaded, a view held by Mr. Mouko, who said one of the suspects had been paralyzed while in custody.

“Under the Constitution, these persons are entitled to bond before plea. Some have died in prison. A longer period of incarceration is a violation of their constitutional rights,” said the Malindi-based lawyer.

But in a quick rejoinder, Mr. Mule, said although the prosecution wished to have the assessments done quickly, the number of suspects involved was huge and it had not been established if the number of psychiatrists available, could do the work within the one week sought.

He said the 31 were part of 95 accused persons also expected to appear in courts in Mombasa, Shanzu and Tononoka, to answer various charges.

“It is true that the accused persons have been in custody for a long time, but this is not in violation of the constitution rights, as they have been in custody on court orders,” Mr. Mule told the Judge, adding that the prosecution would oppose bond at the right time.

In her ruling, the Judge granted the prosecution the 14 days sought, saying that the period sought was reasonable enough to allow time for the mental assessment.

“Given that the accused persons will be taking plea on diverse dates in Mombasa, Shanzu and Tononoka courts; and given further that the accused are held in Shimo- la- Tewa, Kilifi and Malindi Prisons, and given further that neither the court nor counsel, can tell the number and availability of psychiatrists in this region, I find that a period of 14 days is not unreasonable,” she said.

She directed that all accused persons undergo psychiatric assessment to ascertain the fitness to take plea and that medical care be availed to the fourth accused persons and any other accused person who is unwell at the prisons at which they are held.

She deferred the application for bond till all the accused person have taken plea.

By Emmanuel Masha 

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