Kenya cult leader Paul Mackenzie is accused of convincing hundreds of people, including children, to starve themselves to death to get into heaven.

Paul Nthenge Mackenzie, leader of the Good News International Church, and 94 of his associates were charged in a Kenyan court on Thursday over the deaths of 429 of his followers, including 191 children.

The charges, which were announced during an appearance before a court in Mombasa, are the first to be brought against Mackenzie. The self-proclaimed pastor and his co-defendants denied the charges during their appearance before the judge, Joe Omido. They are expected back in court on February 8 for a bond hearing.

According to Breitbart News, Mackenzie was arrested twice before the starvation news surfaced. He was arrested for an incident in March 2023 in which two children were murdered by their parents through suffocation and starvation on Mackenzie’s orders.

Mackenzie told the authorities he was no longer the leader of a church but owned some farmland in Shakahola. Kenyan authorities reported that more than 400 bodies were recovered from the forest, most of them passed away from malnutrition.

It was also reported that some of the cultists murdered their children who refused to follow the starvation plan. Mackenzie allegedly maintained a squad of 16 enforcers to ensure that none of his followers had second thoughts and backed out of the starvation plan.

Court documents obtained described Mackenzie’s church as an organized criminal group engaged in organized illegal activities, endangering lives and leading to the deaths of 429 members and followers.

According to the BBC, 64 out of the 95 rescued followers had been found in Shakahola and were moved to a rescue center. It was later discovered that many of them had children who had died in the forest. Some of the victims had given false names and identities and failed to account for their children.

One witness told the news outlets that they were given instructions in January last year to begin fasting so that they could get to heaven.

Mackenzie was convicted in Nov 2023 of illegally operating a film studio associated with his preaching and distributing films without a valid filming license.