Cameroon journalist faces death penalty over terrorism charges

Cameroon FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

The military court in Yaounde has convicted a local correspondent of Radio France Internationale (RFI) on charges of "non-denunciation of terrorism" and "laundering of the proceeds of terrorist acts."

Ahmed Abba, who has been incarcerated since July 2015, could face a death penalty under an anti-terrorism law on the first charge and a maximum of five years in prison on the second charge, his lawyer Clement Nakong told the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) Thursday.

Mr Nakong said the journalist would appeal the conviction after the sentencing hearing due for Monday April 24.

RFI reported that the military tribunal acquitted the journalist of the charge of "apologising for acts of terrorism."

Appeal

The CPJ called on Cameroonian authorities not to contest the journalist's appeal and to release him “without delay.”

"The military court's conviction of Cameroonian radio journalist Ahmed Abba on terrorism charges that could carry the death penalty is an outrage," CPJ deputy director Robert Mahoney said in a statement. "Covering terrorism as a reporter must not be equated with committing acts of terror. Each day Abba spends behind bars is a travesty of justice."

Three other journalists in the country are standing trial in the same court over similar charges.

Rodrique Tongue, of Le Messager daily newspaper (now working for a local TV station), Felix Cyriaque Ebole Bola of Mutations daily newspaper and Dr Baba Wame, a lecturer with the Advanced School of Mass Communication in Yaounde, were accused of "non-denunciation" or concealing dangerous information concerning state security.

They have all pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Anti-terrorism law

The Cameroon parliament in 2014 voted a controversial anti-terrorism law reintroducing the death penalty in the Central African nation which had not carried out an execution since 1997, according to Amnesty International.

Besides national laws, Cameroon is signatory to several regional and international instruments including the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which protects journalists and their sources.

The central African nation is ranked 126th out of 180 countries in the Reporters Without Border’s 2016 World Press Freedom Index.

 

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