A Canadian deported from Kenya on Saturday while working for the opposition party has described how he was detained and later deported.
Andreas Katsouris, senior vice-president for Aristotle, Inc., a political consulting firm that provides various services to campaigns, was detained along with the American CEO of the company, John Aristotle Phillips.
Aristotle spokesperson Brandi Travis said the two men were in Kenya assisting opposition candidate Raila Odinga and had become involved in the election because they thought it had the potential for irregularities.
Speaking to the Toronto Star, Katsouris said he was out for dinner when the incident happened.
“I was on my way to dinner on Friday night when five or six tough looking guys wearing street clothes surrounded me, and then pretty soon there were a dozen of them,” Katsouris said.
“I saw one of their cell phones and there was a photo of me on it. They said they had been looking for me.”
The men, who identified themselves as police, asked Katsouris to bring them to his American co-worker, John Aristotle Phillips.
He was given only a few minutes to call his wife before his two phones and laptop were taken from him, he told the Star over the phone, from Delft, Netherlands where he has since been reunited with his wife and daughter.
When the officers arrived at Katsouris’ apartment, they asked him and Phillips to pack their bags. He said when they both protested the officers became aggressive and began pushing and shoving them.
Phillips was then handcuffed.
“One guy also grabbed the glasses off my face. I’m pretty much blind without my glasses, and then I was like ‘OK we don’t have to do things this way,’ and then he put them back on.”
The officers also denied Katsouris and Phillips the chance to contact lawyers or access to consular assistance, he said. Representatives for the Kenyan government did not immediately respond to Canadian Press requests for comment.
Katsouris said Phillips later told him he was put into the back of another car with a man holding a “large machine gun.” Phillips’s handcuffs were later removed.
The officers would not answer Katsouris’ questions about where they were going or why they were being held.
“I’m sitting in the car with four or five guys, and two of them are sitting on either side of me and it is pitch black outside. In terms of kidnapping and if I was going to be killed, it definitely crossed my mind,” he said.
After about a half an hour of driving, Katsouris said the tension eased. Five hours later he was at the airport, where he and Phillips were brought into a room and told they were being deported because of a violation of their visas.
Katsouris said officers produced no documentation to justify his detention.
He was put on a connecting flight to Toronto, which first stopped at Frankfurt Airport, where he then took a train to Delft.
“It was 23 hours of boredom and about an hour of fear,” he said.
Katsouris said he and Phillips both had tourist visas, which are not sufficient for their employment in Kenya, but he believes the deportation was political.
Additional Reporting by the Toronto Star