Per WKRN, a California appeals court ordered the dismissal of a criminal case Tuesday against a Mexican megachurch leader on charges of child rape and human trafficking on procedural grounds.
Naasón Joaquín García, the self-proclaimed apostle of La Luz del Mundo, has been in custody since June following his arrest on accusations involving three girls and one woman between 2015 and 2018 in Los Angeles County. Additional allegations of the possession of child pornography in 2019 were later added. He has denied wrongdoing.
While being held without bail in Los Angeles, García has remained the spiritual leader of La Luz del Mundo, which is Spanish for “The Light Of The World.” The Guadalajara, Mexico-based evangelical Christian church was founded by his grandfather and claims 5 million followers worldwide.
BBC reports the La Luz del Mundo (Light of the World) church’s Naasón Joaquín García faced a number of charges, including child rape and human trafficking.
Mr García was arrested in California last year and denies the allegations.
The judges ruled the case should be dropped over a delay in granting him a hearing after new charges were added.
The appeals court determined on Tuesday that Mr García should have been given a hearing within 10 days of the new charges, including child pornography, being filed, AFP reported, but there were delays in the case.
This ruling is not considered final for another 30 days, and prosecutors are reviewing the decision.
The Mexico-based La Luz del Mundo church responded, saying in a statement that it was a decision in favour of justice as “the case should never have been brought.”
A fundamentalist Christian organisation, La Luz del Mundo was founded in 1926 by Mr García’s grandfather, Eusebio Joaquín González. Mr García is known as “the Apostle” to his followers.
La Luz del Mundo says it has over five million followers globally, and over a million in Mexico.
The church’s influence has spread in recent years to parts of California that have large Hispanic populations.
Mr García, a Mexican national, and three female co-defendants also affiliated with the church, are accused of committing 26 felonies in southern California between 2015 and 2018.
These included human trafficking, production of child sex abuse images, and forcible rape of a minor.