February 21, 2010 – Former television news anchor Esther Arunga and prominent jazz musician Joseph Hellon were arrested early on Sunday by police over their links to a religious grouping described as a cult.
Police raided Hellon’s house in Gigiri at 2am and arrested the two and other followers of the controversial Finger of God ministry based in Nairobi’s Runda estate.
The suspects were locked up in various police stations in Nairobi.
The renowned Jazz Maestro was being held at the Gigiri Police station while Esther was locked up at the Muthaiga police station until 3pm, when she was moved to the CID headquarters on Kiambu road.
Eight other members of the church were being held at the Parklands police station but there were reports that all the suspects were to be moved to other police stations.
Police officers told Capital News that the former TV anchor and the rest of the members and leaders of the Finger of God Church were being investigated over the activities of the church, but did not elaborate further.
“Ms Arunga is here at the cells but we can not allow anyone to see her, there are also other suspects being held,” a senior police officer told Capital News at the Muthaiga police station.
There was a flurry of activities at the station. Ms Arunga’s parents were denied access to see their daughter.
“This is a delicate issue, we can not discuss about it now. Please give us time,” his father pleaded with journalists camped outside the station.
Her mother and other members of the family declined to talk to journalists.
One of Arunga’s relatives was seen delivering a package of personal items to the former TV news anchor but she too declined to speak to reporters and instead drove off at high speed towards Thika Road.
Another relative also delivered several books to Arunga before she was moved to the CID headquarters.
Lawyer Haroun Ndubi is representing the group and has protested that the police had violated his client’s rights by raiding their house at 2 am without a warrant.
“They (police) went to raid the home in Runda at 2 am without even a warrant, and they arrested Ms Arunga, Mr Hellon and the rest of the people and I have just learnt that among those arrested are two under age girls who are school-going,” he added.
Ndubi said Arunga, Hellon and the rest of the suspects were being investigated over reports that they are members of an illegal society.
“That is what the investigating officer has indicated to me, but Mr Hellon’s wife and Ms Arunga have assured me that the church is registered,” Ndubi said when he left the CID headquarters, where the suspects were being interrogated.
Esther and the Finger of God Kenyan chapter leader Hellon held a press conference on Thursday in the company of the preacher’s wife and expressed her disappointment over media reports linking her to a ‘cult’ religious group.
Hellon defended his church as a registered church which has been running for more than three years now.
“I am the founder of the church and lead pastor and we preach the gospel of Jesus Christ according to the Bible,” he said.
Arunga, who quit her TV job recently to join the controversial church told journalists that she was not influenced by anyone to join the faith.
“I am an adult, I can stay wherever I want, and I choose to stay where I stay. I am almost 30 and living with my parents didn’t work for me that well,” she said and vowed to take legal action against media houses and reporters who alluded she moved away from her parents out of influence.
She spoke alongside Hellon who said they have welcomed her to their home because she is their church member.
“There is nothing wrong with me staying with my church, there is nothing wrong absolutely,” he said and revealed he had known the former TV queen for long.
Though she said it was not public information whom she was dating, Arunga admitted she moved to stay with Hellon after breaking out of a relationship with her former fiancée.
The Saxophonist on his part said Esther had been a member of his congregation for quite a while now and that she was even one of the leaders.
“Esther is a leader in our church, but before that she was my friend we met at ICC when I went to play my Saxophone during the launch of the church and she was an MC and she liked the doctrines that I preach,” he said.