31 August 2005

Kenya: Decision to Cancel Murungaru Visa is Final, Says UK

Nairobi — The decision to ban Transport minister Chris Murungaru from Britain is final - and the UK will still not give its reasons.

The British Home Secretary, the equivalent of the Home Affairs minister, has decided not to reveal details of why the ban was imposed because to do so would not be in the public interest for diplomatic reasons, the UK government has said.

The UK pointed out in a letter to Dr Murungaru's London lawyers that the government was not legally required to give detailed reasons when it was not in the public interest.

The letter from the Home Office, signed by a Mr N. Hurst, stated: "The secretary of state informed Dr Murungaru that the reason for his exclusion relates to his character, conduct and associations."

And it went on: "The secretary of state has formed the view that it is not in the public interest for diplomatic reasons to disclose the evidence that forms the basis of his decision to exclude Dr Murungaru."

London said the Home Secretary, Mr Charles Clarke, believed he had acted "reasonably and fairly" in deciding not to give the evidence on which the exclusion order was based.

The UK government added its entry clearance officer in Nairobi acted within immigration rules and fairly to cancel the minister's visa because Dr Murungaru's ban would be conducive to the public good.

If the Home Office is correct, it means the government is not legally required to detail the evidence that led to the banning order.

Its letter, sent to London lawyers Leigh, Day and Co. and dated August 25, answered every question the minister's lawyers intended to ask in their suit.

It could therefore render useless the court case Dr Murungaru was planning to file in the UK capital on Friday to force the government to give its reasons for the ban.

For the UK government, Mr Hurst- quoting authorities from previous rulings in UK courts - says the law allows the Home Office not to disclose the reasons for the ban.

Dr Murungaru's lawyers had claimed London acted unfairly by revoking the minister's visa without first informing him and allowing him a chance to defend himself.

The lawyers had also written to the Home Office demanding specific reasons why the minister was barred from travelling to or passing through the UK and stating that if they were not given, they would take the case the court.

However, Mr Hurst wrote: "The secretary of state is not bound to issue a minded-to-exclude letter, and in certain exceptional cases the secretary of state is relieved from the disclosure of any information relating to a case where such disclosure is not in the public interest."

Kabete MP Paul Muite who is coordinating Dr Murungaru's case, has already travelled to London to make the necessary arrangements for Friday when the lawyers were expected to file their case.

The legal team held their first meeting yesterday morning only hours after Mr Muite's arrival.

They had also questioned the Nairobi entry officer's decision to act on instructions from London to cancel the visa.

According to Mr Hurst, the entry clearance officer in Nairobi who issued the banning order acted after the secretary of state's decision and therefore it was enough for him to cancel the visa.

"It is considered that evidence of the secretary of state's exclusion is sufficient for the entry clearance officer to be satisfied for the purposes of Immigration Rule 30 A (iii)," the letter stated.

It added that Dr Murungaru would have been given the notice on the very day the letter was written.

"Where the secretary of state exercises his personal power to exclude an individual from the UK, that individual is not permitted to enter through the United Kingdom. Entry clearance officers retain discretion to refuse to grant a transit visa, in particular in circumstances where the individual has been excluded from the UK, " Mr Hurst added.

The four lawyers had also wanted the British High Commissioner to appear in court to explain why he wrote to airlines asking them not to take Dr Murungaru to or through the UK.

When banning Dr Murungaru, the Home Office had explained that a visit by Dr Murungaru would "... not be conducive to public good in the light of your character, conduct and associations".

Although London accepted the lawyers' argument that the secretary of state must exercise his powers in a fair and reasonable manner, they added it was also a general principle that fairness depended on the context.

Dr Murungaru last week rejected demands to surrender his passport to the British High Commission so his visa could be formally cancelled.

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