The leader of an international religious organisation has been arrested on charges of human trafficking and child rape.

Naason Joaquin Garcia, who was arrested in California, is the leader of the la Luz del Mundo church

The Mexico-based La Luz del Mundo church says its so-called "apostle" was being held on charges of human trafficking and child rape remains the spiritual leader of the group. It claims to have 5 million followers in 58 countries.

Church spokesman Silem Garcia said on Wednesday that Naason Joaquin Garcia was still the church's spiritual guide despite his arrest in Los Angeles and expressed confidence in his innocence.

Advertisement

Silem Garcia called the charges "slander" and "defamation." Naason Joaquin Garcia and three co-defendants face a 26-count felony complaint with allegations that range from human trafficking and production of child pornography to rape of a minor.

The charges detail allegations involving three girls and one woman between 2015 and 2018 in Los Angeles County.

Silem Garcia and Naason Joaquin Garcia are not related.

Worshippers are upset their leader has been charged. Photo / AP
Worshippers are upset their leader has been charged. Photo / AP

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra's office said Tuesday that Naason Joaquin Garcia and a follower of the church, Susana Medina Oaxaca, 24, were arrested Monday after landing at Los Angeles International Airport.

About 1000 worshippers gathered at the headquarters of La Luz del Mundo in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Tuesday evening to pray for Garcia as he was held in Los Angeles on $25 million bail.

Garcia, 50, and three co-defendants face a 26-count felony complaint with allegations that range from human trafficking and production of child pornography to rape of a minor.

The charges detail allegations involving three girls and one woman between 2015 and 2018 in Los Angeles County.

The La Luz del Mundo church says it has baptised more than five million people around the globe.

It claims to have 1.8 million followers in Mexico.

The church was founded in 1926 by Mr García's grandfather, Eusebio Joaquín González.

It describes itself as a "resurgence of the early Christian church" and women sit separately from men during services with their heads covered.

In a statement (in Spanish), the organisation denied all the charges, the BBC reported.

"We categorically reject the false allegations made against our brother Naasón Joaquín García," the statement reads.

"In adherence to the Christian values our church preaches and practises, we reject any conduct which violates people's dignity."