24 July 2017

South Africa: Pastor Charged With Human Trafficking Back in Court

Photo: Nosipiwo Manona/Premium Times
Nigerian Pastor Timothy Omotoso escorted by South African police (file photo).

A Nigerian pastor charged with human trafficking, sexual assault and the rape of young girls will appear in the Port Elizabeth Magistrate's Court on Monday.

The Durban-based televangelist, who recently celebrated his 59th birthday behind bars, is alleged to have trafficked more than 30 girls and women, who were from various branches of his church.

He has been in custody since his dramatic arrest at the Port Elizabeth airport on April 20 by members of the SAPS Tactical Task Team.

His initial bail application was denied after he was deemed a flight risk.

At the time, Hawks chief investigating officer Peter Plaatjies told the court how the pastor had a modus operandi similar to that of skilled sex offenders who preyed on young girls.

Plaatjies explained how the pastor had used older women to recruit vulnerable girls, some as young as 13, who came from impoverished communities and who did not have father figures in their lives.

He said these girls would then be vetted, and transported to a house in Durban where the pastor lived. There they would be pampered, given luxuries and cash, and would be groomed for alleged sexual encounters with the pastor.

Allegations included that the pastor would have the girls give him full body massages, would make them lie on a bed while he masturbated next to them, before eventually leading to full penetration.

Members of the police's public order policing unit have had a strong presence at the court for his appearances, which have been marked with hundreds of supporters, mainly congregants from the pastor's church, protesting outside and calling for his release.

Political parties, most notably the ANC Women's League and members of the EFF, have also protested outside the court during initial proceedings, calling for his bail to be denied.

Media have battled to find seating in the packed public galleries.

His latest appearance, however, saw only a handful of supporters at the courthouse, filling a single row in the public gallery.

At the end of proceedings, the pastor turned to the gallery and his supporters stood, waved and bowed to him as he was led back to the holding cells.

News24

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