The Kisumu High Court on Thursday, October 22 ordered preacher John Pesa of the Holy Ghost Coptic Church of Africa to pay a 21-year-old man Ksh500,000 for illegally detaining him under the claim that he was conducting prayers for the victim to heal from a mental problem.
Pesa and members of his church were found guilty of unlawfully detaining their victim, identified in court as S.O.O, for 25 months, beginning July 2, 2017.
Lady Justice Thripsisa Cherere heard that three years ago, S.O.O’s parent took him to Pesa for spiritual healing. The victim was a minor at the time, with the court establishing that he was two months shy of attaining the legal age of 18.
The court was told that S.O.O was confined in church by being chained for 25 months, thereby denying him the right of movement.
“From the material before me, I find that the removal from school of S.O.O in the year he was to sit his KCSE examination, and his confinement at the 1st respondent’s church by 2nd and 3rd respondents subjected him to psychological torture,” the judge said.
The court was told that S.O.O was released from the illegal confinement in May 2019. As a result of the detainment, S.O.O missed his studies and failed to write his KCSE exams.
Justice Cherere heard that the boy’s parent decided to take him for spiritual healing after his academic performance dipped. According to the court testimonies, the parent was advised to take the teenager for prayer intercession by his teachers at a Kisumu mixed secondary school.
The father of the teenager, R.A., and the Kenya Human Rights Commission went to court to sue the Holy Ghost Coptic Church of Africa and priest John Pesa.
The court heard that S.O.O’s father was shocked to find his son chained at Father Pesa’s church in May 2019. R.A.’s request to have his son released, was objected to by the boy’s mother and Father Pesa.
Also named in the petition were the Kisumu County Government and its CEC for Health, the CS Ministry of Health, Attorney General and the National Council for Persons with Disabilities.
The court heard that the continued detention of S.O.O in the church denied him freedom of movement and liberty, and was a violation of his rights to health, education and freedom from torture, cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment.
In his defense, Pesa and his church conceded that S.O.O was taken for spiritual healing by one of the parents and stayed there from July 2, 2017 until May 2019 when he was freed.
Pesa, however, denied claims of torturing S.O.O, saying that there was no medical evidence to prove the allegations.
Dr. Edwin Nyaura, a consultant Psychiatrist with the County Government of Kisumu, confirmed that S.O.O is on treatment for acute psychotic episode, an illusionary illness that can be a one-time occurrence, usually of sudden onset, or can occur repeatedly or may be the early phase of mental illness.
The judge then absolved the Kisumu County Government of any wrongdoing, saying it provided medical support and facilities for treatment of persons who suffer from mental illness.