Kenya in fresh bid to deport Faisal

Wednesday January 13 2010

Sheikh Abdullah al-Faisal. A Muslim rights group has gone to court seeking to compel the government to  Photo/ FILE

Sheikh Abdullah al-Faisal. A Muslim rights group has gone to court seeking to compel the government to Photo/ FILE 


Jamaican preacher Sheikh Abdullah al-Faisal was on Wednesday moved from his remand cell to the airport as the government made a second attempt to deport him.

The radical Islamic preacher was removed from the Industrial Area Remand Prison on Tuesday evening, Ms Pauline Ngari, the officer in-charge, said. He had been held at the jail since Sunday. He is now being held at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi pending deportation.

The move came as the Gambia, the destination of his last aborted expulsion bid, denied ever agreeing to accept him. The Gambian government has threatened to impound any aircraft that will fly the preacher to the West African nation.

And in a related development, an activist has gone to court to try and force the government to produce Sheikh al-Faisal in court. Also sought by Mr Al-Amin Kimathi in suit papers filed in court on Wednesday, is an order stopping the government from deporting the cleric before the application is heard and determined.

The preacher’s presence in Kenya has been declared a security risk by Immigration minister Otieno Kajwang’. The statement by the Gambian government complicates matters for the already embarrassed Kenyan authorities. On Thursday last week, Mr Kajwang’ told the press that the West African state had accepted Sheikh al-Faisal.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday in the capital Banjul, acting director-general of immigration in the Gambia Buba Sagnia, denied there was any such deal with Kenya. “It’s a lie that Abdullah al-Faisal was accepted by the Gambian government,” Sagnia told reporters.

And on Monday, Mr Kajwang’ said that the Gambia and Nigeria had changed their minds over the controversial cleric. The minister blamed the media for sending out alarmist reports that portrayed the religious leader in an “alarmist and negative” way.

“He chose to go to the Gambia, but when he reached Nigeria on his way to Banjul, the authorities denied him a transit visa and put him on the next flight back,” Mr Kajwang’ had said on Monday. Attempts to reach Mr Kajwang’ for comment were not successful as his phone went unanswered. Kenya does not have direct flights to Jamaica and has to rely on other countries for passage.

Under international law, too, Kenya has the burden of delivering him back home safely, protecting his human rights against violation and ensuring that he is not delivered to another government for torture or to face charges similar to the ones he was convicted for in the UK in 2003.

A British court convicted the cleric for inciting murder and racial hatred and sentenced him to nine years in prison back then. He was then deported to Jamaica in 2007, according to the New York Times. In court on Wednesday, Mr Kimathi said the cleric entered the country lawfully and has not breached any laws to warrant detention or deportation. Mr Kimathi sued immigration minister Otieno Kajwang’, the police commissioner, the commissioner of prisons and the attorney-general.

The cleric was first arrested by police at Nyali mosque in Mombasa on December 31 and never allowed to see friends, said Mr Kimathi. The decision to hold the cleric in custody for long, he says, contradicts rights provided for under the constitution and international human rights convention. The court papers also say that Sheikh al-Faisal was declared a prohibited immigrant without having been accorded the opportunity to be heard.

Sheikh al-Faisal says he was never presented before the immigrations department to answer any questions or even show cause why his immigration status as granted to him at the Lunga-Lunga border point should not be revoked. Mr Kimathi argues that the continued detention of the cleric without preferring any charges amounts to psychological torture. He also accused the government of holding the man without the orders of any court of law.

According to the cleric’s wife, Ms Zubeida Khan, who resides in the UK, her husband was given a two-month visitor’s entry visa into Kenya. Sheikh al- Faisal arrived in Kenya on December 24 after travelling through Nigeria, Angola, Mozambique, Swaziland, Malawi and Tanzania.

Reported by Walter Menya, Jillo Kadida and Fred Mukinda