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Sect Members 'Deserve More Help'

Two Australians charged with abduction in Kenya aren’t getting the same level of Federal Government help as the likes of convicted drug smuggler Schapelle Corby, the couple’s sect leader said today.

Roland Gianstefani and his wife, Susan, from New South Wales were charged with abduction following the disappearance of Kenyan journalist Betty Waitherero Njoroge and her seven-year-old son Joshua in June.

They will face a Nairobi court on Friday.

Mr Gianstefani has also been charged with hawking without a licence, for distributing pamphlets for the Jesus Christians religious group.

If convicted, the pair face up to three years and four months in jail.

Jesus Christian founder Dave McKay, also from NSW, today criticised the lack of support the Gianstefanis had received from the Government.
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Much more attention had been paid to Australians arrested in Indonesia on drug charges, Mr McKay said.

“I don’t want to be seen as competing with Schapelle Corby,” he said.

“I think she’s innocent, and if she’s innocent she needs all the help she can get.

“But there’s been a lot of media attention about her, and not just about her but about (other) people (arrested in Indonesia) that look pretty guilty to me.

“The Australian Government has sent a QC over there in one case, and they have made offers of help for other people.

“I really believe (the Government) only needed to whisper in people’s ears and something would have happened.”

(Mr McKay believed the charges against the Gianstefanis would have been dropped).

“We’ve picked up a bit of prejudice as far as the Jesus Christians are concerned,” Mr McKay said.

“People say Well, you’re a cult and we don’t want to get involved.

“And Indonesia has a higher profile.”

The abduction charges were unfounded and laid in an effort to force Ms Njoroge to relinquish custody of Joshua to her wealthy father, Mr McKay said.

In an affidavit posted on the Jesus Christians website, Ms Njoroge said she had joined the group voluntarily but had since left “in an effort to keep them (Jesus Christians) from further arrests”.

“I affirm that both Roland and Susan Gianstefani are innocent of these false charges,” Ms Njoroge said in the affidavit.

“My opinion is that Roland and Susan are victims in an illegal scheme to force me to hand over custody of my son to his grandparents.”

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade rejected the claims made by Mr McKay.

“Contrary to Mr McKay’s claims, we can confirm our officials-at-post have, and continue to, provide Mr and Mrs Gianstefani with appropriate consular assistance,” a department spokeswoman said.

“Consular officials can’t use their position to unduly influence local laws or process, even when these would appear, by Australian standards, to be unfair or unnecessarily arduous.”

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