Nigerian-born separatist leader Nnamdi Kanu had been in Kenya on a tourist visa for more than a month when authorities allegedly deported him to Lagos in June, his family has claimed in court papers.
Mr Kanu's brother, Kingsley, has sued Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang'i, Director of Immigration Services Alexander Muteshi, Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) boss George Kinoti, the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport's (JKIA) police boss and Attorney-General Paul Kihara Kariuki over his alleged abduction and deportation.
The High Court in Nairobi has ordered the government officials to file their responses to the petition, which will be mentioned on October 5, 2021.
Mr Kanu's family argues he was arrested without a warrant, held for several days and denied contact with lawyers and family.
In the court papers, his family says that the Indigenous People of Biafra (Ipob) leader arrived in Kenya from Kigali, Rwanda, in May and was to spend "a few weeks" in Kenya when local authorities allegedly assisted in deporting him.
Mr Kanu went to pick up a friend from JKIA on June 19, 2021 and was on a phone call with his Germany-based brother when security authorities arrested him.
Kenya in July denied playing any role in Mr Kanu's arrest and deportation, as Nigeria claimed to have arrested the separatist in London. The British government denied the man was seized in UK.
Mr Muteshi at the time insisted that Kenya was not complicit in Mr Kanu’s arrest, and said it was difficult to ascertain whether the separatist had entered Kenyan territory.
Court papers now indicate that Mr Kanu had been allowed into Kenya nearly two months before his arrest.
“The subject (Mr Kanu) was at no time notified that he was classified as a prohibited immigrant in Kenya. If he was, he would not have been granted a visa in the first instance or allowed to exit the airport on arrival. He would have been asked to take the next available flight out of Kenya,” Kingsley says in the court petition.
Kanu was born in Nigeria but moved to the UK in 2015 after being slapped with terror-related charges by Lagos.
His push to restore Biafra's secession from Nigeria started in 2014 and he was arrested and charged in the same year.
Mr Kanu denounced his Nigerian passport in 2015 after securing UK citizenship. He has, however, been pushing for the secession from across the world.
He was in Kenya for activities related to his push to restore Biafra's separation from Nigeria, his brother says in court papers.
Lived in Kilimani
Mr Kanu was staying in a furnished apartment within Nairobi's Kilimani suburb, and had hired a Kenyan personal assistant.
The personal assistant sent the passport to Mr Kanu's brother in Germany.
Kingsley says the move was to avoid it getting into the hands of Nigerian authorities, who may have used it to claim that the separatist willingly traveled and surrendered to his country of birth.
Kingsley wants the High Court to find that his brother's arrest and deportation was a violation of extradition treaties signed by Kenya.
Reveal circumstances of arrest
He is seeking court orders compelling the Kenyan government to reveal exactly how Mr Kanu was arrested and deported.
The petitioner also wants the government to release the full name and ranks of police officers and any government bureaucrat who participated in his brother's deportation to Nigeria.
"Even though the subject (of the court petition) is not a Kenyan citizen, he was entitled to protection by and under the Constitution of Kenya and international human rights law signed and covenanted to be upheld by the government of Kenya. Even though the petitioner (Kingsley Kanu) is not a Kenyan, the Constitution of Kenya does not prevent him from moving to the High Court under Article 22 of the Constitution."
He adds that Mr Kanu's past brushes with Nigerian authorities indicate that the separatist is likely to be tortured while in custody.
"There are concerns that he is currently being tortured in detention in Nigeria. Similar actions by Nigerian authorities against pro-Biafra activists have been widely reported and condemned by international human rights Non-government Organisations as well as the United Nations," Kingsley Kanu says in court papers.
“Given the history of Nigerian authorities torturing Mr Kanu in detention, there can be no doubt that Mr Kanu is in grave danger and at serious risk of torture while in detention.”
The petition has revealed some of Mr Kanu's movements before his deportation to Nigeria.
Papers filed in court indicate that he was admitted to Nairobi Hospital on May 13, 2021 and discharged the following day.
On June 19, 2021 he went to the airport to pick up a friend.
While on a call with his brother, a group of unidentified individuals accosted Mr Kanu. Mr Kanu promised to call his brother back, but that was the last time the two would talk.
Days later, his personal assistant told Kingsley that the separatist leader had not been seen at the Kilimani apartment since June 19.
She, however, revealed that the presence of his passport at the apartment was indicative that Mr Kanu had not planned to travel outside Kenya when he left for JKIA.
"On or about July 6, 2021 the petitioner requested Ms Gitau to send him Mr Kanu's passport in fear that the Nigerian authorities would get a hold of it and claim he voluntarily entered Nigeria. The petitioner currently has the passport of Mr Kanu in his possession," Kingsley Kanu adds.
The separatist’s removal from Kenya risks throwing the country in a diplomatic spat with the UK.
The UK in July asked Abuja to clarify how Mr Kanu entered Nigeria, after Attorney General Abubakar Malami claimed that the separatist leader was arrested in London with the help of foreign security authorities.
The UK denied that Mr Kanu was arrested in London.