SECTIONS

Health officials want cleric jailed, buildings demolished

 Father John Pesa at the Coptic church in Mamboleo, Kisumu. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

Controversial cleric John Pesa is in trouble with authorities after Kisumu’s Department of Health moved to court to compel him to release 23 people held at his church.

The department is also seeking Father Pesa's arrest as well as the demolition of some buildings inside the Coptic Holy Ghost Church compound. The cleric has been accused of detaining 23 people against their will on the pretext that he will pray for their healing.

Some of the detainees are believed to be struggling with mental illnesses.

Yesterday, health officials moved to Winam Law Courts a few days after police officers raided the church to free some of the people held against their will. The officials also want the detainees taken to hospital for treatment after they are removed from the church.

In its suit filed under a certificate of urgency, the health department wants the court to order the destruction of dilapidated buildings in the church’s compound.

Police officers conducting a search at the church located in Mamboleo, Kisumu. [Collins Oduor, Standard]

Officials claim the church is operating a mental hospital without proper legal documents.

The department has also asked the court to order the detention of Father Pesa as well as the relatives of the patients detained at the church.

They want the cleric charged with nuisance under the Public Health Act.

In their petition, they said the confined people have been living in deplorable conditions.

According to records, the church had about 120 people but the number has reduced to 30.

Principal Magistrate Fatuma Rashid set the hearing date for this Friday.

A chained detainee. Inset, Father John Pesa. [Collins Oduor, Standard]

The church, whose operations continue to baffle many, is not new to controversy.

In 2020, the High Court ordered Pesa to pay Sh500,000 to a schoolboy who had been confined at his church for 25 months. The court ruled that the teenager, identified as SOO, was subjected to psychological torture.

The boy's tribulations started in July 2017 when teachers noticed he had trouble concentrating on his studies and advised his parents to take him for treatment.

His parents instead took him to Father Pesa’s church for spiritual healing. He remained in custody until May 2019, meaning he missed his studies and the KCSE examination.

When the parents visited him in the company of officers from the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, they found him in chains.

They demanded his release but Pesa is said to have declined to do so, forcing them to seek legal redress.

A chained detainee in a camp at the Coptic church located in Mamboleo, Kisumu. [Collins Oduor, Standard]

In his response to the case, Pesa conceded that SOO was taken to the church for spiritual prayers on July 2, 2017, and was in their custody until May 2019, adding that there is no medical evidence to prove that he was tortured.

During a raid by police at the facility last week, some of the inmates confined at the facility begged to be released and claimed they have been subjected to terror.

One of the victims, Millicent Atieno, begged journalists and police officers to remove her from the church and claimed she had been tortured.