Pastor Timothy Omotoso at the Port Elizabeth High Court on Tuesday. Picture: Raahil Sain/ANA

Port Elizabeth - Nigerian Pastor Timothy Omotoso refused to plead to the 63 charges against him as his trial finally got underway in the Port Elizabeth High Court on Tuesday. 

Omotoso’s two alleged accomplices were also instructed by their defence not to plead to the charges against them. 

The trial which was meant to kick off earlier this week, has been marred by several delays.

Earlier on Tuesday the court's recording device was out of order and preceding that, the defence had brought two applications prior to the commencement of the criminal trial. 

Just after 3pm on Tuesday, the televangelist refused to plead to a string of charges, which include racketeering, rape, sexual assault, human trafficking and trafficking in persons. 

Alleged henchwomen, Lusanda Sulani and Zukiswa Sitho, also refused to plead to charges which include rape, sexual assault, racketeering and trafficking in persons. 

Judge Mandela Makaula entered a plea of not guilty on behalf of the trio. 

In respect of the rape and human trafficking charges, which allegedly occurred in Israel and Nigeria, a plea of no jurisdiction was entered. 

As State Prosecutor Nceba Ntelwa read out the various charges, the court heard that a 13-year-old girl and 14-year-old boy were among the alleged victims.

The State also indicated that the televangelist used his Jesus Dominion International Church as a means to manage an enterprise which involved racketeering. 

Defence lawyer, Peter Daubermann, who is representing the trio, said that all three of his clients maintained that they were not properly informed of the charges against them.

Daubermann said the trio were not in a position to make plea explanations. 

“However badly they want to, they are unable to make a plea explanation because there is not sufficient information of the charges,” he said. 

The State is expected to call its first witness on Wednesday. 

The 58-year-old televangelist allegedly trafficked more than 30 girls and women who were from various branches of his church to a house in Umhlanga, KwaZulu-Natal, where he allegedly sexually exploited them.

The two women are accused of recruiting girls from all over the country for the purposes of sexual exploitation.

The trial continues.

African News Agency (ANA)