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Naason Joaquin Garcia: Prosecutors demand Mexican megachurch leader be held without bail


Believers consider detained pastor the most recent apostle of Jesus

Andy Gregory | Tuesday 16 July 2019 18:27

Prosecutors have asked that a Mexican megachurch leader be denied bail before his trial on charges of child rape and human trafficking in the US

Naason Joaquin Garcia was arrested in June at Los Angeles airport and is currently being held on bail of $50m (£40m) – believed to be the highest ever sum set in Los Angeles County.

Mr Garcia, who denies the charges, is the leader of La Luz del Mundo (Light of the World), a church headquartered in Mexico that claims more than 1 million adherents around the world.

Followers believe him to be the most recent apostle of Jesus Christ.

Mr Garcia and two co-defendants appeared in Los Angeles Superior Court on Monday for a bail review hearing. At the request of Californian attorney general Xavier Becerra, the judge doubled bail from $25m (£20.1m).

Law enforcement officers testified about sexual images and videos discovered on Mr Garcia’s electronic devices.

One also testified that $5m (£4m) had been raised for Mr Garcia’s defence. Defendants can typically post 10 per cent of their bail to be freed.

A judge is expected to rule later on Tuesday.

Defence lawyers said Mr Garcia did not pose a flight risk and that his bail should be reduced.

Prosecutors have previously said that there were four victims including three children; one child and a woman were raped. The crimes occurred from 2015 until 2018 in Los Angeles County, officials said.

One of the group arrested told children that if they went against the desires of Mr García, “they were going against god,” according to a 19-page complaint filed last month.

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