Liberian soccer star George Weah plans to sue the West African nation’s government after having his diplomatic passport confiscated, his political party said on Monday.
The former AC Milan striker — who lost a presidential election last year — was pulled off a flight by security officials at Monrovia airport on Sunday, his aides said.
“We were on our way to Nigeria to attend a meeting when state security came and demanded that we get down from the aircraft,” Eugene Nangbe, Secretary General of Weah’s Congress for Democratic Change party, told Reuters.
“We were taken to an office at the airport where Ambassador Weah was detained for over 30 minutes ... He has informed his lawyers and we will sue the government today,” he said.
Weah, whose presidential ambitions shocked Liberia’s political elite, initially cried foul after a November run-off but last week vowed to back President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, whose victory made her Africa’s first elected woman leader.
Crack down on 'diplomatic papers'
The government denied ordering the seizure of Weah’s passport but said it was aware of a broader drive to identify those not entitled to travel on diplomatic papers.
“Neither the president nor the justice minister was aware of this action. The action is contrary to the spirit of political unity and reconciliation,” the government said in a statement, adding it would investigate the matter.
Weah, who grew up in a Monrovia slum, is wildly popular among young Liberians and there had been fears his supporters might undermine Johnson-Sirleaf’s efforts to govern, particularly after they staged violent protests after the polls.
Weah was appointed “sports ambassador” for Liberia in the 1990s by interim president Amos Sawyer and given a diplomatic passport.
Last year’s elections were Liberia’s first since the end of a 14-year civil war which killed a quarter of a million people and shocked the world with images of drugged-up child soldiers wielding Kalashnikovs.