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Homa Bay cleric Joseph Chenge faces anxious wait ahead of possible terrorism charge

Mbita Principal Magistrate Nicodemus Moseti has directed security officials holding self-proclaimed prophet Joseph Chenge and six members of his church to present the clerics before him on May 25 when he will give directions on their detention.

Investigative officers are seeking 30 days to detain Mr Chenge and pastors at his church as they probe some of their teachings at Jerusalem Mowar Church in Lambwe, Homa Bay County which is said to be misleading.

Police made the application on May 11, days after the man said he wanted to meet President William Ruto to deliver a message to him.

The Directorate of Criminal Investigations through Senior Prosecution Council Charles Mwangi asked the court to issue an order for the clerics to be detained as investigations are conducted.

The state plans to charge Mr Chenge with various offences including terrorism for he is accused of offering teachings that can lead his followers to death.

Other charges include having a five months old baby at his church.

Mr Mwangi said the infant should have been with his parents but investigators could not immediately trace the parents.

Though he failed to grant orders as asked by DCI, Mr Moseti, on Monday said time taken for investigations should not be as long as DCI had stated in their application to the court.

According to the magistrate, technological advances make probe into different matters less tiresome.

He added that logistical challenges that were experienced in the past before technology was embraced by police are no longer there.

“With technology, investigations take less time,” Mr Moseti said.

He said the suspects have since spent four days in police custody since they were arrested and the time should have been used by DCI to conduct part of their investigations.

Mr Moseti said the suspects will be presented before him on Thursday.

When making the ruling, the magistrate said the cleric has the right to be issued with a bond or bail, adding that it is a step towards ensuring fair administration of justice.

He added that he is convinced about some of the issues raised by investigators handling the cases.

Mr Mwangi had told the court that setting the cleric free will affect the investigation process.

In response, Mr Moseti said he conceived that the self proclaimed prophet had a five months old baby in his church.

During his arrest last week, Mr Chenge is said to have been offering misleading doctrines that may result in death which is against the Terrorism Act.

The court was also told that six individuals were rescued from the church.

“The church acted as his home. He had people locked up there,” Mr Mwangi said.

He added that the people, including some who were sick, were allegedly being denied access to medical care in hospitals.

Instead Mr Chenge prayed for them.

According to the prosecution, they had varying medical conditions including two who had mental illness and were all taken to hospital after being refused.

According to the prosecution, the case has public interest.

Mr Mwangi said it may be similar to what happened at Shakahola in Kilifi county where hundreds of members of Good life church died when they had teachings from their church leader Paul Makenzie.

“We do not want to have a situation where Homa Bay comes second after Kilifi county,” the prosecutor said

Mr Chenge’s lawyer Victor Nyakwamba and members of Jerusalem Mowar Church were in court on Monday as an act of solidarity with the cleric.

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