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61 Anglophones Detained, 31 Awaiting Trial – Issa Tchiroma 

By Nformi Sonde Kinsai & Etienne Mainimo Mengnjo

The Minister of Communication, Issa Tchiroma Bakary, has disclosed that of the 82 people arrested following uprisings in the Northwest and Southwest Regions, 21 were released.

The Minister said of the 61 people held in detention, 31 are awaiting trial before the Yaounde Military Court.

According to Tchiroma, one of those awaiting trial is appearing freely.

“Concerning the trial which was opened at the Yaounde Military Court on February 13, 27 people are involved including Nkongho Felix Agbor Balla and Fontem Aforteka’a Neba, leaders of the Cameroon Anglophone Civil Society Consortium, CACSC, whose existence had previously be declared null and void,” Tchiroma stated at a press briefing in Yaounde on February 15.

The Minister was updating the press on judicial proceedings targeting some persons involved in the events which took place in the Southwest and Northwest Regions.

The press briefing was void of questions.

He announced the charges against those being prosecuted to include: “acts of terrorism, hostility against the fatherland, secession, revolution, insurgency, and contempt of the President of the Republic, contempt of the constituted bodies and civil servants, group rebellion, civil war, dissemination of false news, apology for crimes.”

Quoting the 2014 law on terrorism and highlighting acts punishable by that law, Tchiroma said, “none of the defendants is prosecuted for the mere fact of having participated in a strike, having masterminded or participated in a peaceful demonstration, as it could unfortunately be heard here and there, especially through some foreign media.”

The Communication Minister quoted President Biya who in a recent speech said every citizen has the right to express his opinion on any issue of national life and take part in peaceful strike.

In the same speech, Biya had said the use of threats, intimidation or violence to compel anybody to heed a call for strike action is unacceptable.

He had added amongst other issues that it is also unacceptable to hold children hostage from education to push through political demands.

“…It should be indicated that each of the accused persons benefits from the presumption of innocence, which means that they remain innocent until the court establishes whether or not they are guilty at the end of the trial,” said Tchiroma.

He stated that the accused enjoy the right to defence as provided for by the Criminal Procedure Code, adding that the defendants are assisted by hundreds of lawyers including lawyers registered in foreign bars.

On the fact that the accused are supposed to be tried in courts of areas where the crime was allegedly committed, Tchiroma argued that the 2008 law organising military justice gives the Yaounde Military Court national jurisdiction in matters of state security and acts of terrorism.

He also mentioned the Special Criminal Court located in Yaounde that has national jurisdiction to try cases of mismanagement of public funds from FCFA 50 million and above.

The Minster also quoted the 2014 law on terrorism again, saying whoever threatens a witness…with violence, battery of death, shall be punished with life imprisonment.

“I would also like to recall, as far as the suppression of acts of terrorism is concerned, that their apology is equally punishable and that it is characterised even if made by means of the media, the internet or by any other means intended to reach the public.”

He said article 169 of the Penal Code states that whoever refers publicly to any judicial proceeding not yet terminated by final judgment in a manner liable to influence, whether intentionally or not, the opinion of any person for or against any party, shall be punished with imprisonment of up to three months.

“Where the offence is committed through the press, the custodial sentence can be up to two years and the fine, up to FCFA 5 million,” Tchiroma told the press.