A Canadian deported from Kenya on Saturday while working for an opposition party in the African country says he was initially given a "flimsy" excuse about a visa issue.
Andreas Katsouris said officers eventually dropped "any pretence" that he was being kicked out for legal reasons.
The Toronto man was deported in the last days before the East African country's contentious presidential election, which is set for Tuesday. In the past week, the country's two main polling organizations have indicated a narrow race.
Katsouris said officers produced no documentation to justify his detention and went through his computer during the nearly-24 hours he was detained at the Nairobi airport.
A senior vice-president at Aristotle, Inc., Katsouris had been in the country acting as a political consultant for opposition candidate Raila Odinga, who has been vying for the presidency for more than a decade.
He said he hasn't been provided with a concrete reason why he and his American colleague — Aristotle CEO John Aristotle Phillips — were deported.
Katsouris says a Kenyan official told them at first that they were we were being deported because they did not have the proper visas. Katsouris said they entered on tourist visas, but were in the process of getting those visas switched over.
"We challenged him on that. We said you don't need to barge in with 15 people and do it this way if we've got a bureaucratic visa problem, and he didn't put up much of an argument on that point," he said, calling the visa excuse "flimsy."
After that, he said, the officials "dropped any pretense for having a legal basis" for the deportation.
"They never mentioned it again, produced no charge or documentation to back it up and of course stole our laptops which would have nothing to do with a visa issue," he said.
Representatives for the Kenyan government did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Katsouris contends he was deported because the governing party didn't want the opposition to have access to its consultants — something he called a political mistake.
"Leaving aside that it's undemocratic, to bundle off people who are filling a reasonable role in any campaign — and to do it this way — seems to be rash and a reflection of somebody probably who is worried about what's going to happen on Tuesday," he said. "It looks weak."
The public nature of the detention could be particularly problematic.
Katsouris said he and Phillips were confronted at the apartment they were renting by as many as 15 men in plain clothes, who identified themselves as police.
They refused to give the two men access to a lawyer or consular assistance. Katsouris said that Phillips refused to go with them and was handcuffed and marched out of the apartment. He said Phillips told him he was put in the trunk area of an SUV.
"They certainly were rough with him initially," Katsouris said. "They didn't hurt him, he wasn't bruised, but it must have been quite unpleasant for him."
James Orengo, a senior member of the opposition National Super Alliance, relayed that story to reporters Saturday, saying that Phillips' rights had been "molested".
Katsouris said he told the officers he'd go with them, so he was allowed to pack his things.
But still — it was tense, Katsouris said.
Last week, a senior official at the election commission was abducted and found dead on the side of the road, and the National Super Alliance, the party Katsouris was working for, has called the death an assassination and an attempt to disrupt the elections.
"I'd be lying if I didn't tell you that incident went through my mind. But the fact that they, you know, they had badges, they asked me to pack my things, they were doing it very conspicuously," he said. "I had my worried moments, but for the most part I assumed they were agents of the security service and they didn't want us around."
Katsouris is currently in the Netherlands, where his family was visiting at the time he was deported.