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Kenya police 'to deport' British journalist detained at airport

by Reuters
Friday, 9 December 2016 18:24 GMT

(Updates with journalist faces deportation)

By Katharine Houreld

NAIROBI, Dec 9 (Reuters) - Kenyan police plan to deport a British journalist working for The Times after holding him nearly 24 hours without charge or access to a legal representative, his lawyer said on Friday.

"I have not been able to speak to him since they took away his phones," said lawyer George King, who is acting on behalf of Jerome Starkey.

"I understand they will deport him," he said, citing a conversation with Starkey before the journalist's phones were removed.

Starkey has been held since getting off an international flight on Thursday night and has not been allowed to meet his lawyer. It was unclear why he was being detained.

Kenyan police and the interior ministry did not respond to request for comments.

Kenyan law requires a suspect to be charged within 24 hours of being detained, King said.

Starkey, 35, covered Afghanistan for five years, travelling to far-flung provinces by motor bike, before moving to Kenya in 2012 to cover Africa for The Times, a British newspaper.

An award-winning journalist, his recent articles have focused on a narcotics smuggling, security, politics and conservation.

He was pulled aside by police as he reached the immigration desk, he said in an email.

"The immigration officer noticed something on her computer and led me to a side room," he wrote. "They said there was a security block on my passport, which had been put there by Kenyan security services."

"I have no idea why I am being held, nor has anyone proffered any kind of explanation. As far as I am aware, I haven't been charged."

He said he had been questioned and photographed by an officer from the anti-terror police unit.

A British foreign office spokesman confirmed the office was providing assistance.

The Times had no immediate comment.

Kenyan authorities have been targeting journalists who challenge authorities, Human Rights Watch said. Since 2015, five journalists and eight bloggers have been charged with "demeaning the authority of a public officer", "annoying a public officer", or defamation, the rights body said.

"We have serious concerns that officials seek to silence independent voices who are critical of the government," said Maria Burnett, associate director for East Africa at Human Rights Watch. "We have documented cases of intimidation, arrest, questioning and harassing criminal charges brought against Kenyan journalists and bloggers." (Editing by Richard Lough)

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