Kenyan starvation cult suspect dies in police custody

Joseph Buyuka, a Kenyan accused of involvement in the deaths of hundreds of members of a starvation cult, has died after a 10-day hunger strike while in police custody, according to a prosecutor's statement on Wednesday.

Buyuka was among 30 individuals, including self-proclaimed pastor Paul Mackenzie of Good News International Church, held in custody for the deaths of 337 followers of .

According to court papers, the police believe that Buyuka and four others arrested with him “played significant roles in the offences leading to the deaths and illegal disposal of bodies in Shakahola (forest).”

Since April, authorities have been exhuming most of the bodies from the forest in southeast .

Jami Yamina, senior prosecution counsel, informed a court in Mombasa that Buyuka had passed away two days ago at a hospital in Malindi, located approximately 116 km (72 miles) from Mombasa.

He had been transferred from a nearby to the hospital.

Yamina stated, “He died …(due to) … complications from hunger strike and starvation, but we will await the postmortem report.” She also mentioned that two other suspects had fallen ill, with police suspecting their condition is related to the hunger strike.

Pastor Mackenzie is accused of instructing his followers to starve themselves and their children to death in order to reach heaven before the end of the world.

He surrendered to the police in April and was denied bail last month. The other suspects were arrested subsequently when authorities began the process of exhuming the bodies.

Currently, Mackenzie and the other suspects have not been required to enter a plea.

In May, Interior Minister Kithure Kindiki expressed concern that some of Mackenzie's rescued followers were refusing food, leading to one death at that time.

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