The Nation (Nairobi)

Kenya: Country Deports Jamaican Cleric to Gambia

Photo: Hezron Njoroge
Protesters wave placards during a march in Nairobi to demand release of Jamaican preacher Abullah al-Faisal on January 15, 2010.

Nairobi — Kenya has deported radical Jamaican preacher Sheikh Abdullah al-Faisal to The Gambia.

Immigration minister Otieno Kajwang said Thursday that the Muslim cleric was deported to the west African nation on his request.

He said that he government could not transport him to his native Jamaica.

"We could not find an airline to ferry him straight to his home country," said the minister at his Nyayo House offices Thursday.

"The only way possible could have been through the US, but the country has already made its position over the matter known - they don't want him there."

He added: "We therefore had no option but take him to Banjul on his request. The Gambian Government have accepted to take him, so we had to send him there."

It was not immediately clear whether the cleric, who has been in the country for ten days, left Kenya Wednesday night or Thursday morning.

But the move did not go down well with officials of a Muslim rights group, who expressed doubts as to whether the cleric was willingly expelled to Banjul, the Gambian capital.

Consequently, they demanded that they be furnished with copies of the official deportation order, the cleric's air ticket, the airline passenger manifest and a signed statement indicating the cleric's desire to be deported to Gambia.

Mr Al Amin Kimathi, the chair of the Muslim Human Rights Forum together with lawyer Harun Ndubi said the government ought to have sent the radical cleric to his home country - Jamaica.

'It was his wish that he be taken to Jamaica, but not any other place," said Mr Kimathi, who in the company of Lawyer Harun Ndubi, had sought audience with the Immigration minister to have the deportation order lifted.

"We are therefore wondering how the decision to take him to Gambia was reached. The official is just being mistreated on the basis of his alleged past record," added the human right's activist.

"He was jailed and released on parole and given a certificate of good conduct. We are not aware of any of his misdeeds."

The immigration minister said that even though the cleric, who was held by Kenyan authorities at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport for the better part of Wednesday as they plotted his next destination, had not committed any crime in the country the fact that he was on the international terror watch list said it all.

"We are walking a tight rope here...we have been attacked by terrorists and it is only right if we seriously defend our borders. We will be doing so without violating our security," said Mr Kajwang.

The Jamaican-born cleric was arrested on new year's eve in Mombasa on accusations of links to terrorism shortly after entering Kenya from Tanzania.

Local Islamic pressure groups immediately denounced the arrest as an indication of government discrimination against Muslims.

Sheikh al-Faisal has had several run-ins with the law in a number of countries including Britain where he was a resident until deported to his native Jamaica on accusations of preaching racial and religious hatred.

In his sermons, he reportedly propagated the killing of non-Muslims.

The cleric, who entered Kenya by road from Tanzania through the Lunga Lunga border post, was flown to Nairobi for interrogation by the Anti-Terrorism Police Unit after his arrest.

Mr Kajwang said that Sheikh al-Faisal had slipped into Kenya through a small border post, explaining that had he used an airport or one of the major border posts where the Immigration controls are linked by computer, his name would have shown up on the watch list and he would not have been allowed entry.

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