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Heavily Armed Soldiers Accompany Mebara to Court 

( — Twenty-six heavily armed agents of the multipurpose taskforce of the National Gendarmerie surrounded Jean-Marie Atangana Mebara and kept guard at the premises of the Mfoundi High Court during a hearing on the Albatross affair last Thursday.

Mebara (R) before court session

A war-like scene prevailed and an atmosphere of tension hung in the air as the gendarmes, some in combat gear, alighted from a 30-seater bus minutes before the start of the court proceedings. A confident-looking Atangana Mebara, dressed in an elaborate white agbada traditional wear had sat among them in the bus during the journey from the Kondengui Maximum Security Prison. The intimidating scenario caused some minutes of reluctance on the part of the accused to alight from the bus.

With the tight-security presence maintained inside the court room, Mebara desolately issued concerns for his life. “I don’t feel secure with this security build-up,” he said to the hearing of those at earshot. Presiding Judge Gilbert Schlick kept the start of the session until the arrival of lawyers of the accused.

Applications tendered by the defense counsel for Mebara to be released on bail were not entertained by the judge. In the course of the hearing, Justice Schlick persistently remained firm towards the accused and scolded him at some instances. The session was adjourned to 18 January.

Attempts made by some observers in the audience to have Atangana Mebara sign an autograph on his recently published book, “Letters from Beyond”, were thwarted by a fierce-looking gendarmerie lieutenant who seized a copy offered for signature. The daughter of the accused, Therese Atanagana Mebara, to whom one of the letters in the book is addressed, was harshly denied a chance outside the courtroom to converse with her father just before he got on the bus. She exploded into tears just like her aunts did during the very tense court session.

Some human rights observers present in court last Thursday admit that it was the most intimidating hearing since the start of the anti-corruption crackdown. To many, the only right the accused enjoyed was the presence of his counsels – Barristers Ekani and Assira. Beyond this, no other right was enjoyed. They pointed at instances during which the presiding judge was simply unwilling to listen to Mebara.

Analysts here hold that Atangana Mebara is paying the price of being a boisterous ‘prisoner’ who found the courage to publish a book. “Letters for Beyond” was published and launched last month and put in circulation a few days ago by Paris-based publisher Harmattan. The book prefaced by Christian Cardinal Tumi has received unprecedented public attention and put Mebara in the headlines throughout the past month. This unusual exposure, analysts say, has upset the Yaounde regime.

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