FILE - In this July 15, 2019, file photo, Naason Joaquin Garcia, the leader of a Mexico-based evangelical church with a worldwide membership, attends a bail review hearing in Los Angeles Superior Court in Los Angeles. Garcia, who is considered the church’s apostle, and two co-defendants were arrested in June on suspicion of sexually abusing three girls and a woman in Los Angeles County. All three have pleaded not guilty and a fourth defendant remains at large. (Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via AP, Pool, File)

Mexican megachurch leader back in court in child rape case

September 19, 2019 - 12:18 am

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The leader of Mexican megachurch La Luz del Mundo will return to court for a preliminary hearing on child rape and human trafficking charges.

Naason Joaquin Garcia is being held without bail after his arrest in June on suspicion of sexually abusing three girls and a woman in Los Angeles County. He and his two co-defendants have pleaded not guilty.

A judge could rule Thursday if there is enough evidence for the case to go to trial.

Garcia is considered the church's apostle, and the victims were allegedly told they would be going against God if they didn't acquiesce to his sexual demands.

His defense attorneys have raised concerns about potential evidence manipulation and argue there is a conspiracy, saying a complaining witness has tried to frame their client.

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