NAIROBI, Kenya – Acting in the middle of the night, Kenyan authorities handcuffed and deported an opposition politician whose attempt to enter the country led to him being detained in an airport toilet for more than a day, lawyers said early Thursday.
Miguna Miguna, targeted in a Kenyan government crackdown amid lingering election tensions, was sent to Dubai even after a court ordered authorities to release him, lawyer Cliff Ombeta said. Another lawyer, James Orengo, said police at the airport roughed them up and forced them to leave when they tried to serve the court order.
There was no immediate response from Kenyan authorities, though Kenya’s immigration department retweeted a post calling on the public to ignore a rumor that Miguna had been sedated or drugged.
The deportation ended the airport drama in which Miguna posted from what he called “Toilet at Terminal 2,” saying he had been detained in the “filthy” facilities at the country’s main airport in Nairobi.
Hours before he was deported, a High Court judge declared Kenya’s interior minister, national police chief and permanent secretary for immigration in contempt of court for disregarding an order to immediately release Miguna, said another lawyer, Nelson Havi. Justice George Odunga ordered the officials to show up in court Thursday morning or be jailed.
Miguna had been deported to Canada last month in the crackdown on politicians who attended the mock inauguration of opposition leader Raila Odinga to protest President Uhuru Kenyatta’s re-election. A court later ordered that Miguna’s Kenyan passport be restored and that he be allowed to return.
However, when Miguna arrived on Monday at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, plainclothes officers tried to hustle him onto an outbound plane, witnesses said. That failed when he protested.
Miguna later posted statements on social media saying he had been “detained inside a tiny and filthy toilet” in one of the terminals. “I have not eaten. I have not taken a shower. I have not been given access to my lawyers, family members and physicians.”
A lawyer representing Kenya’s attorney general, Japheth Mutinda, told the court on Wednesday that Miguna could not appear there as ordered because his entry into the country was still being processed.
The airport confrontation came two weeks after a surprise meeting between opposition leader Odinga and Kenya’s president as they announced a new initiative to heal the East African nation after months of sometimes deadly election turmoil.
Odinga had argued that Kenyatta lacked legitimacy because his initial Aug. 8 re-election victory was nullified by the Supreme Court over “irregularities and illegalities.” The repeat election had a low turnout as Odinga boycotted it, citing a lack of electoral reforms.
Miguna was at Odinga’s side when he took an oath as the “people’s president” at the mock inauguration. The government responded by arresting opposition politicians.
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