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Kenya police detain British journalist without charge at airport

A British journalist for The Times of London newspaper says he is being detained at a Nairobi airport without explanation or charge after entering Kenya

Published: Updated:

Kenyan police have detained a British journalist working for The Times and are holding him at the country’s main airport without charge, his lawyer said on Friday.

“I am trying to find out why they are holding him,” said lawyer George King, who is acting on behalf of Jerome Starkey. “They’ve denied me any access. (Airport) security has refused to give me a pass.”

Kenyan law requires a suspect to be charged within 24 hours of being detained, King said. Starkey has been held for 19 hours since getting off an international flight on Thursday night. Kenyan police and the interior ministry did not respond to request for comments.

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. His recent articles have focused on a drug-smuggling case involving a British aristocrat, Zimbabwean 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 did not respond to requests for comment.

Starkey later tweeted that he had been photographed by an official, he then again tweeted that a lawyer had been refused access to the airport.

Kenyan authorities have been targeting journalists who challenge authorities, Human Rights Watch said. Earlier this year, a journalist and a blogger were detained after posting pictures of Kenyan soldiers killed by Somali militants.

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.

In October, Kenyan anti-terror police detained a British man working on anti-terrorism radio campaigns. They accused him of having extremist literature at his home. He was released without charge.

(Additional editing by Al Arabiya English)