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The Latest: Church followers say leader is innocent

June 7, 2019
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ADDS FIRST NAME OF MAN CHARGED - FILE - In this March 5, 2019 file photo, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra speaks during a news conference in Sacramento, Calif. Becerra announced on Tuesday, June 4, 2019 that California authorities charged Naasón Joaquín García, the leader and self-proclaimed apostle of La Luz del Mundo, a Mexico-based church with branches in the U.S. claiming more than 1 million followers, with child rape, human trafficking and producing child pornography in Southern California. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Latest on the arrest of the leader of Mexico-based megachurch La Luz del Mundo (all times local):

7:25 p.m.

Worshippers at an East Los Angeles affiliate of Mexico-based megachurch La Luz del Mundo say they believe their leader is innocent of child rape and human trafficking charges and decry comments made by California’s attorney general.

The church’s members have been praying for their leader and self-proclaimed apostle, Naasón Joaquín García, and say they trust in the judicial system.

Churchgoers Thursday afternoon say they’ve known Joaquín García for decades and some traveled from other states to support him.

Church spokesman Jack Freeman also says he thinks Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s news conference was not professional for the position.

Becerra says there may be additional victims of Joaquín García and he believes the church’s followers could help raise his $50 million bail.

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12:37 p.m.

California’s top prosecutor is urging any other victims of child sex abuse to come forward after the leader of Mexico-based megachurch La Luz del Mundo and several followers were charged.

Attorney General Xavier Becerra said at a press conference Thursday that it’s hard to believe there were just the four victims cited in a felony complaint.

Church leader Naasón Joaquín García and two co-defendants were arrested in California this week and a fourth remains at large.

A church spokesman has denounced the charges and says Joaquín García remains the spiritual leader of La Luz del Mundo, which claims more than 5 million members worldwide.

Becerra says Joaquín García’s bail was set at $50 million because of fears he could raise money from followers and flee.

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