The Mombasa High Court on Wednesday, May 5 directed the National Police Service (NPS) to reopen televangelist Ezekiel Odero’s New Life International Church in Mavueni, Kilifi County.
The High Court judge directed the National Police Service (NPS) to open the church immediately without further delay. Pastor Ezekiel’s lawyers, led by Danstan Omari and Cliff Ombetta, had asked the court to intervene through an order barring the government from disrupting religious activities in the church.
“Unless this court intervenes, the respondents will continue issuing illegal directives to not only frustrate the applicant herein but also threaten the very existence of New Life Prayer Center and Church and the projects currently underway,” Omari said.
Omari had accused the government of frustrating the embattled pastor and his ministry and called upon the court to prevent the state from gaining access to Pastor Ezekiel’s bank accounts with the intention to freeze them.
“Though the allegations against the applicant are unsubstantiated, scandalous and untrue, there has been an increasing extra-judicial interference by the respondents who currently threaten to freeze the church bank accounts, and to unreasonably deny the applicant and his congregation his freedom to religion as decreed under the Constitution,” Omari added.
The Church was closed on Thursday, April 27, after police arrested Pastor Ezekiel and charged him with terrorism, indoctrination of the faithful and other charges related to mass killings.
Pastor Ezekiel was arraigned in court in Shanzu on Friday morning, April 28, with police requesting the court to detain him for 30 days. Shanzu Senior Principle Magistrate Joe Omindo in his ruling on Tuesday, May 2 declined the request, stating that police officers would detail Pastor Ezekiel until Thursday, May 4, 2023.
Detectives investigating the Shakahola massacre, through prosecutors, had established a connection between Pastor Ezekiel’s New International Life Church and the 800-acre piece of land in Shakahola belonging to self-proclaimed pastor, Paul Mackenzie.
“He is linked to several occurrence book reports of almost 100 deaths that occurred in the church between 2022 and 2023. These deaths occurred within church precincts,” Senior Prosecution Counsel Jami Yamina told the court.
Detectives also traced Ksh3 million in financial transactions between Pastors Ezekiel and Mackenzie for the purchase of a TV station, with the former confessing to buying the TV station from Mackenzie but said the business transaction should not be linked to the Shakahola deaths.
Pastor Ezekiel’s arrest resulted in divisions among Kenya Kwanza lawmakers, with some legislators allied to the ruling coalition supporting the arrest and arguing that the state should be taking action on churches. Another faction, however, criticised police actions of going after Pastor Ezekiel.