Cameroon opposition leader jailed for seven years

Cameroonian oppositionist Enoy Meyomess
Critics say the jailing of Cameroonian activist Enoy Meyomesse (second right) is politically motivated. 

An opposition leader who failed to make the final list of candidates for the presidential race in Cameroon last year and who was subsequently charged with attempting to topple the government has been handed a seven-year jail term.

The prison sentence and a fine of FCFA 200,000 ($400) were decided Thursday even though the coup attempt charge had been dropped in June.

A military court in the capital Yaoundé ruled on December 14 that 57-year-old Enoh Meyomesse was guilty of aggravated theft and the illegal sale of gold but said it could only pass sentence on Thursday.

Three other co-accused, Ndi Benoît, Song Kanga and Manda Bernard, were also found guilty and fined.

Initially Meyomesse was charged, alongside the three other men, with attempting to organise a coup, possessing a firearm and aggravated theft.

But by June, all of the charges against the writer and political activist had been dropped. However, a month later, a judge ordered the extension of his detention so that the prosecutor could find evidence against him.

Meyomesse, who has spent 13 months in detention before his conviction, was subsequently charged with being an accomplice to theft and the illegal trafficking of gold.

He was arrested on November 22, 2011 at Nsimalen International Airport in Yaoundé on the return leg of a trip to Singapore.

The author, who failed to run for the presidential election on October 9, 2011 under the banner of the United National Front (UNF), denies all charges. He maintains that he is being held because of views expressed in his writings, and for his political activism.

There has been widespread concern about the charges against him, and also about claims he was tortured in the overcrowded Yaoundé Kondengui Prison.

The prosecution had reportedly fabricated evidence, and Meyomesse had been denied proper legal representation for the first few months of his incarceration.

His supporters say the writer’s first month in detention was spent in solitary confinement and in complete darkness, causing a debilitating eye condition which could see him lose his eyesight.

The international free speech watchdog Pen International has condemned the conviction as unjust saying it wants it quashed and Meyomesse immediately and unconditionally freed.

Cameroon has been ruled by Paul Biya since 1982.

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