A Kenyan evangelical pastor suspected of stealing children presented as "miracle babies", the result of his prayers, was acquitted on Monday by a Nairobi court due to insufficient evidence.
Gilbert Deya, a former stonemason who moved to London in the 1990s, was accused of stealing five children between 1999 and 2004.
But Gilbert Deya, 86, was acquitted by Robison Ondieki, a magistrate in a Nairobi court, who ruled that the prosecution had not produced sufficient evidence.
"The charges were fabricated and could not be brought before a court," the reverend's lawyer, John Swaka, told AFP, assuring the press that his client was "very happy".
Gilbert Deya, who owns several churches, including in London, Liverpool and Nottingham, was extradited from Britain to Kenya in 2017 after a legal battle lasting almost 10 years.
The reverend and his wife Mary claimed that infertile or menopausal women could become pregnant in four months, without having sexual relations, thanks to their prayers.
According to the prosecution, the babies had in fact been stolen, most of them from the maternity ward of Pumwani Hospital in Nairobi, a poor suburb of the capital.
A predominantly Christian country in East Africa, Kenya is home to around "4,000 churches", according to official figures, including those run by self-proclaimed pastors with no theological training.
The discovery in April of the bodies of worshippers linked to a sect that practised starvation in order to "meet Jesus Christ" raised questions about the need for greater regulation of churches.
Nearly 400 bodies have so far been found in the Shakahola forest on the Kenyan coast. The sect's leader and self-proclaimed pastor Paul Nthenge Mackenzie, a 50-year-old former taxi driver, is facing terrorism charges.