Coptic Church founder Father John Pesa [Photo: Denish Ochieng]

A cleric is in trouble for confining a schoolboy using chains for 25 months in his church. Father John Pesa was ordered by the High Court in Kisumu to pay the young man, who is suffering from a mental illness, Sh500,000 for damages.

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Pesa denied the boy his freedom as he was preparing to sit his Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education examination in 2017. Together with his Holy Ghost Coptic Church of Africa and another party, they are to pay the boy, identified as SOO, the cost he incurred in the case plus interest that is to be calculated at the court rate.

SOO's tribulations started in July 2017 when the school noticed he had reduced concentration in his studies and advised his parents to take him for medical treatment. However, they took him to Father Pesa’s church for spiritual healing but were shocked at his health status when they visited him in the company of officers from the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights.

He remained in the custody of the church until May 2019 which was long after the national exams had been undertaken, and he, therefore, missed on a key milestone. The court was told SOO was cuffed in heavy chains and when they demanded for his release, Pesa declined to do so, forcing them to seek legal redress.

Pesa said SOO was taken to the church for spiritual prayers on July 2, 2017, and was in their custody until May 2019. He added that there was no medical evidence to prove that the boy was tortured. A report by a consultant psychiatrist Dr Edwin Nyaura of Kisumu County government confirmed SOO is on treatment for acute psychotic episode which is an illusionary illness.

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“The right to education cannot be compromised on the basis of one’s religious beliefs or the way one manifests those beliefs. In this respect, I am persuaded that the 3rd respondent not only failed in his duty to take SOO to school but by removing him from school also breached his right to education,” said High Court judge Tripisa Cherere.