Jan 18, 2016

Angolan sect leader goes on trial for police killings

January 17, 2016

Johannesburg - Angolan Christian sect leader Julino Kalupeteca goes on trial on Monday for the murder of nine police officers during a security forces operation to arrest him which, according to the opposition, turned into a "massacre".

Angola's opposition party Unita said that more than 1 000 people were killed in the April 2015 police operation against Kalupeteca's Seventh Day Light of the World Church, though authorities insisted only 22 people died - 13 civilians and nine police officers.

Clashes broke out as sect members unsuccessfully tried to thwart the arrest of their leader during the raid in a mountainous area of the central Huambo region where Kalupeteca lived with 3 000 followers.

After the incident, authorities blocked access to the remote area and neither death toll was ever independently verified.

Police deny the huge casualty figure and have challenged Unita to back up its claims with evidence.

The sect, which predicted the end of the world in 2015 and encourages its followers to live in seclusion, is a dissident branch of the Seventh Day Adventist Church with 3 700 followers in Angola, according to local news agency ANGOP.

Kalupeteca, 54, is due to stand trial alongside a dozen of his followers. Several members of the sect have already been convicted of murder over the incident, including a young man who was sentenced to 20 years' jail last week.

The trial will be held in Huambo, the provincial capital of the region of the same name.

While the Angolan state officially recognises 83 Christian churches, there exist nearly 1 200 other religious organisations, including many cults, according to the culture ministry.

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