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Australian Academic Fights Botswana Deportation

An Australian professor who has lived in Botswana for 15 years has turned to the courts to overturn a deportation order after being declared a prohibited immigrant.

In February, Botswana President Festus Mogae declared that Professor Kenneth Good threatened national security. As a result, the government declared him a prohibited immigrant and ordered him deported.

The decision came days before Professor Good was scheduled to deliver a paper critical of the presidential succession in Botswana. In addition, the paper written by Professor Good and a colleague was widely critical of how presidential authority is exercised, in essence finding that there were too few checks and balances in the decision-making process.

Professor Good told VOA the president of Botswana has not provided any reasons for declaring him a threat to security.

"Well, he does not say nor is he obliged under the existing immigration act that he has acted on, to give that information," he said. "And yesterday in the High Court, the attorney general just repeated a number of times the point that the president had made this determination on the advice, which he deemed to be reliable and that was that."

Attorney General Ian Kirby also told the court that under the legislation such decisions cannot be questioned or appealed, and that individuals affected by such decisions have no right to be heard in a court of law. A court earlier found that Professor Good does have a right to appeal the decision in court.

Professor Good and his co-author, Ian Taylor, took particular exception to the provision in Botswana's constitution by which the vice president automatically becomes president if the incumbent leaves office.

President Mogae, who came to office in 1998 and under law cannot serve more than 10 years, is scheduled to step aside in 2008. At that time, Vice President Ian Khama is likely to assume the office.

A general election follows in 2009, and the president's job once again comes into contention. If the ruling party loses power or even if it does not, it is possible for a new parliament to choose a new president following a general election.

In his application before the court, Professor Good has argued that he is being deported because of his paper and that this violates the freedom of speech provisions in Botswana's constitution. He says the government has rejected this argument.

"They actually deny that my freedom of expression is involved; and they say it's not something I've written," he said. "But the last thing I wrote, as it happens, ... was on presidential succession in Botswana and the attorney general in court yesterday, about an hour after he said my freedom of speech was not involved, spent about 10 minutes attacking this paper in a rather vulgar [crude, not scholarly] way."

A judgment in the case is expected at the end of May.