The American rapper Busta Rhymes was detained for 11 hours yesterday by British immigration officials, who tried to have him deported after he arrived in London for a concert.
A High Court judge ordered the musician's immediate release last night – but not before a fierce legal battle over his right to enter Britain. Rhymes was detained at London City airport because of "unresolved convictions" in the US as he flew in on the eve of a charity gig for the Orange RockCorps volunteering initiative.
More than 5,000 young people have given hours of their time to charitable causes to win exclusive tickets to tonight's concert at the Royal Albert Hall. But the appearance of Rhymes, the headline act, was thrown into disarray after immigration officials refused to grant him entry.
Rhymes, 36, real name Trevor George Smith, was stopped shortly after he landed at 7.26am yesterday. Arrangements were made for him to travel back to Amsterdam, from where he had just arrived, on a 9.30am flight. But at 8.58am a duty High Court judge granted an injunction preventing him from boarding. Forced to spend the day in a 7ft by 8ft room alongside his lawyer while being interrogated by officials, it looked like a series of previous convictions were coming back to haunt the rapper. In March he was given three years' probation in New York for assaulting his former driver Edward Hatchett and a fan. He was accused of assaulting Mr Hatchett "with a closed fist about the head and neck" and kicking him in the ribs and chest on Boxing Day 2007. He was also ordered to do 10 days' community service and pay a $1,250 (£670) fine.
Yesterday his legal team said their client had never been jailed and had completed community service for his convictions. Concert organisers said Rhymes had a valid work permit and has been to the UK twice this year, to perform and do promotional charity work in Lambeth, south London. A judicial review is scheduled for 2pm today, with the concert due to begin at 7pm.
In a statement issued last night, the rapper said: "I came to the UK to perform for all of the Orange RockCorps volunteers who put in time in their community and that's what I'm going to do...hopefully I will be able to put on an incredible show for the kids tomorrow."
The rapper Ludacris, a friend of Rhymes, was drafted in as a replacement and will now play in addition to Rhymes. The Automatic, Guillemots, Lethal Bizzle, Feeder, and the soul singer John Legend are all due to play tonight. "We're shocked at this sequence of events and this treatment of Busta," Stephen Greene, co-founder of RockCorps, said before his release.