A Malindi court on Monday allowed the police to detain a pastor and 20 of his followers for 15 days in a case where they are accused of indoctrinating children with extreme religious teachings.
Chief magistrate Julie Oseko ordered Mr Paul Makenzi, a renowned televangelist of the Good News International Church, and his followers to be held at the Malindi police station.
This came after the police, through Mr Collins Mukhongo, filed an application, saying investigations into the offence were wide and complex, and required up to 30 days to complete.
But the magistrate ordered that the suspects be remanded for 15 days only, saying the time was enough for the investigations, bearing in mind the nature of the case, since it involves children.
In a sworn affidavit, Mr Mukhongo said the police are investigating alleged radicalisation, which is related to terrorism.
He said they were also investigating the group for running a television station and a school without licences and denying children the right to education and medical care.
“The suspects were arrested at the Good News International Ministries Church and 73 children aged between two and 17, suspected of undergoing radicalisation, were rescued,” he said.
Mr Mukhongo said the investigations involves consulting the Education ministry, the Communications Authority of Kenya, the Department of Children’s Services, the Interior ministry and the National Council of Churches.
Prosecution counsel David Fedha said the suspects are influential individuals and could interfere with witnesses and evidence if released on bond before investigations are concluded.
“The police are still tracing the parents of the children rescued at the church to assist in the investigations,” he added.
Mr Fedha said the matter is delicate as it involves children who need care and protection.
He added that those rescued had been taken to various remand and children’s homes for counselling.
The suspects’ lawyer, James Mouko, however opposed the application, arguing that it was based on mere rumours and allegations.
“A court of law works on evidence presented to warrant the application,” he said.
He added that “allowing the application will be an abuse of the court process”.
Mr Mouko argued that the prosecution had already prepared a charge sheet for the alleged offence, which shows that investigations are complete.
Last Friday, the police raided the church and found Bibles, copies of the Koran, textbooks and some files they suspect were used to radicalise the children.