NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenyan authorities deported a lawyer charged with treason for attending the symbolic presidential inauguration of opposition leader Raila Odinga, prompting a rare rebuke from the Chief Justice who accused the government of defying court orders.
The High Court had ordered police to bring lawyer Miguna Miguna to a court in Nairobi on Wednesday. But the government said it had deported him overnight as a “prohibited immigrant”, because he had lost Kenyan nationality under a now-defunct law.
Miguna said in a statement he had been forcefully placed on board a KLM flight to Amsterdam “in flagrant violation of my constitutional rights, five court orders and common decency”.
Miguna was detained on Friday, days after taking part in the symbolic swearing-in of opposition leader Raila Odinga as president, in a challenge to President Uhuru Kenyatta.
After days held at an undisclosed location, he was charged with treason on Tuesday in a court outside Nairobi, but refused to enter a plea, arguing he should face any charges inside the capital. The High Court ordered police to present him at a court in Nairobi on Wednesday.
In a rare public statement, Chief Justice David Maraga sharply criticised the government for failing to comply.
“Compliance with court orders is not an option for any individual or institution,” he said.
Odinga, Kenya’s veteran opposition leader, says he should be president as the rightful winner of an election in August last year. Kenya’s election authorities said Kenyatta won the August vote; the Supreme Court threw out the result and ordered a repeat election, which Odinga boycotted and Kenyatta also won.
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, and detaining three opposition figures who took part.
Odinga himself has not been arrested. Any move to detain him could spark violent street protests. Hundreds of people were killed in 2007-2008 after an election that Odinga’s supporters believe was stolen from him.
The interior ministry defended the deportation of Miguna as a “prohibited immigrant” who had been awarded his Kenyan passport illegally, because he had applied for it at a time when he also held Canadian citizenship. Holding dual citizenship was illegal in Kenya at the time, although it is legal now.
Opposition lawyer James Orengo argued in court that it was impossible to declare a Kenyan citizen 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,” Orengo said.
Writing by Katharine Houreld; Editing by Peter Graff