The conviction and sentencing of a journalist by a military court in Cameroon to 10 years in prison after an unfair trial is a travesty of justice, Amnesty International said today.
Ahmed Abba, a journalist for Radio France Internationale’s Hausa service was handed down 10 years of imprisonment after having been convicted on 20 April on charges of “non-denunciation of terrorism” and “laundering of the proceeds of terrorist acts”. He was also fined 84,000 euro. The journalist was acquitted of the charge of “glorifying acts of terrorism.”
“Ahmed Abba’s conviction, after torture and an unfair trial, is clear evidence that Cameroon’s military courts are not competent to try civilians and should not have jurisdiction in these cases,” said Ilaria Allegrozzi Amnesty International’s Lake Chad researcher.
Ahmed Abba’s conviction, after torture and an unfair trial, is clear evidence that Cameroon’s military courts are not competent to try civilians and should not have jurisdiction in these casesIlaria Allegrozzi Amnesty International’s Lake Chad researcher.
Ahmed Abba’s lawyer has indicated that he intends toappeal the conviction and sentence. Abba was arrested on 30 July 2015 in the city of Maroua while investigating the Boko Haram conflict in the north of the country. He was held incommunicado for three months and tortured in a facility run by Cameroonian secret services. He was also been deprived of his right to be brought promptly before court.
His trial began at Yaoundé military court on 29 February 2016. On 6 April this year, the Military Prosecutor requested the death sentence against Ahmed Abba but last week requested instead a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
Amnesty International considers that Ahmed Abba’s trial was marred by irregularities, including witnesses not being called to testify and key documents not being shared with defence lawyers.
Since 2014 the Cameroonian authorities have arrested more than 1,000 people for allegedly supporting Boko Haram. Many have been held incommunicado and tortured in illegal detention facilities run by the military and or the secret services.
Once brought to official detention facilities, they are kept in inhumane detention conditions in overcrowded prisons and face extremely long delays in their judicial process. They face trial before a military court and may be sentenced to death under the country’s anti-terror law.