The 191 children were among the 425 victims found in the Shakahola forest in coastal Kenya last year.
Kenyan cult leader Paul NthengeMackenzie and 29 associates were on Tuesday charged with the murder of 191 children whose bodies were found among hundreds of people buried in a forest.
The defendants all denied the charges brought before a court in the coastal town of Malindi near the Indian Ocean. One suspect was found mentally unfit to stand trial and has been ordered to return to the Malindi High Court in a month.
Prosecutors said Mackenzie ordered his followers to starve themselves and their children to death so that they could go to heaven before the world ended, in one of the world’s worst cult-related disasters in recent history.
The former taxi driver turned self-proclaimed pastor has already been charged with “terrorism”, manslaughter as well as child torture and cruelty. He was arrested in April last year after bodies were found in the Shakahola forest.
Autopsies revealed that the majority of the 429 victims had died of hunger. But others, including children, appeared to have been strangled, beaten, or suffocated.
The case, dubbed the “Shakahola forest massacre”, led the government to flag the need for tighter control of fringe denominations.
A largely Christian nation, Kenya has struggled to regulate unscrupulous churches and cults that dabble in criminality.