Kenya deports opposition lawyer charged with treason

Reuters News
Posted: Feb 07, 2018 4:15 AM

By George Obulutsa

NAIROBI (Reuters) - A Kenyan lawyer charged with treason over the symbolic presidential inauguration of opposition leader Raila Odinga was deported, he said on Wednesday, accusing the government of breaking the law as it sought to quash the opposition.

"The illegitimate, despotic regime ... forcefully placed me on a late night KLM flight from Nairobi to Amsterdam in flagrant violation of my constitutional rights, five court orders and common decency," lawyer Miguna Miguna said in a statement.

The government argued it was legal to deport him because he had lost his citizenship under a now-defunct law.

Miguna was arrested on Friday. He was granted bail of 50,000 Kenyan shillings ($500) but had remained in police custody with his whereabouts unknown until he appeared in court in Kajiado County, neighboring Nairobi, on Tuesday to hear the charges.

Miguna refused to enter a plea, saying his case should be heard in a court in Nairobi. On Tuesday, High Court judge Luka Kimaru ordered that all proceedings against Miguna be stopped until police brought him to a Nairobi court, as ordered, on Wednesday.

But when court opened, the government produced a letter from the interior ministry proclaiming Miguna a prohibited immigrant. The grounds were not clear but a later statement from the interior ministry said Miguna had been illegally issued with a Kenyan passport.

At the time Miguna applied for his Kenyan passport, dual nationality was illegal and he lost his Kenyan citizenship because he had become a Canadian citizen, the statement said. Dual citizenship is now legal.

Opposition lawyer James Orengo argued in court that it was impossible to declare a Kenyan citizen was a prohibited immigrant.

"These courts are the protector of citizens and their rights. Once we cannot find safety and protection from the courts we are opening the state to anarchy. And accountability and respect of the law would lose its mandatory requirements," Orengo said.

Miguna was detained days after he took part in the symbolic swearing-in of opposition leader Raila Odinga as president, a move designed to directly challenge President Uhuru Kenyatta.

The election board said Kenyatta won presidential elections held on Aug 8, but the Supreme Court nullified those results on procedural grounds. A repeat election was held in October, which Odinga boycotted, saying it would not be free or fair. Now he is claiming to have won the August election.

Odinga's claims have angered the ruling party, which responded by taking three television stations off air that planned to live-stream his symbolic inauguration event, and detaining three opposition figures who took part.

Odinga himself has not been arrested. Any move to detain him would likely spark violent street protests.

(Writing by Katharine Houreld; Editing by Peter Graff)