18 December 2012

Cameroonian Writer and Former Presidential Candidate Faces Jail Term

Photo: Rick Bajornas/UN
Cameroon's President Paul Biya addresses the United Nations (file photo).

press release

Source: Writers in Prison Committee, PEN International

The Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC) of PEN International protests the 14 December 2012 conviction of writer and activist Enoh Meyomesse on charges of supposed complicity in the theft and illegal sale of gold. The prosecutor has requested a seven-year prison sentence, due to be decided on 27 December 2012. The WiPC believes the case to be politically motivated and calls on the Cameroonian authorities to quash the conviction and to release Meyomesse immediately and unconditionally.

Enoh Meyomesse, 57, is the author of numerous books and is a founding member of the Cameroon Writers Association. Arrested on 22 November 2011, Meyomesse was initially charged with attempting to organise a coup, possessing a firearm and aggravated theft. Meyomesse denied all charges and maintained that he had been arrested because of views expressed in his writings, and for his political activism. Meyomesse was a candidate for the presidential election on 9 October 2011, under the banner of the United National Front (UNF).

Since the moment of Meyomesse's arrest, there were serious concerns about the charges against him, and also about his treatment in prison, which at times amounted to torture. There were reports that the prosecution had fabricated evidence, and that Meyomesse was denied proper legal representation for the first few months of his incarceration.

By June 2012, all of the charges against Meyomesse had been dropped, however in July 2012 the WiPC learned that a judge had ordered the extension of Meyomesse's detention so that the prosecutor could ostensibly search for evidence against the writer. Meyomesse was subsequently charged with being an accomplice to theft and illegal traffic of gold.

After numerous procedural delays, on 14 December 2012 Meyomesse and the three other defendants in the case were found guilty as charged. The Government Commissioner (prosecutor) has reportedly requested a sentence of seven years in prison for Meyomesse and a fine of 200,000 CFA (£247). Sentencing is due to take place on 27 December 2012.

The WIPC has campaigned on Meyomesse's behalf since his arrest, in collaboration with a small group of his friends and supporters who visit him regularly in prison. These supporters have been subjected to attacks by pro-government media. On 30 November 2012, one activist was arrested and accused of illegally recording part of that day's court proceedings against Meyomesse. The activist was interrogated and various mobile phones, memory cards and USB sticks confiscated pending possible charges.

Meyomesse has now been detained for almost 13 months and is currently held in the over-crowded Kondengui Central Prison in Yaoundé. His first month in detention was spent in solitary confinement and in complete darkness, which reportedly provoked a debilitating eye condition which could leave him blind.

Meyomesse evokes his experience of prison in a recently published collection of poetry written while behind bars, entitled Poème carcéral: Poésie du pénitencier de Kondengui. Here is one of the poems:

Désespoir

tu m'as visité ce jour-là

et une nuit noire sans étoile sans rayon de lune

sans luciole sans devenir sans rien

à couper à la machette comme celle-là où mes pas s'étaient égarés derrière la case du village

ô Dieu du ciel

une nuit

d'encre

s'était abattue sur moi

et toi ô terre

oui toi ô terre

tu avais cessé

de tourner

(See full collection of poetry here).

Please send appeals:

-Protesting the 14 December 2012 conviction of writer and activist Enoh Meyomesse on charges of supposed complicity in the theft and illegal sale of gold, and the prosecutor's request for a seven-year prison sentence;

-Calling on the Cameroonian authorities to quash the conviction and to release Meyomesse immediately and unconditionally.

Write to:

President

President Paul Biya

Fax: +237 22 22 08 70

Email: cellcom@prc.cm or contact@presidenceducameroun.com

Minister of Justice

Hon. Minister of Justice Laurent Esso

Ministry of Justice

Yaoundé

Cameroon

Fax: +237 22 23 00 05

Prime Minister

Mr. Philemon Yang, Prime Minister

Fax: +237 22 23 57 35

Email: spm@spm.gov.cm

Please copy appeals to the diplomatic representative for Cameroon in your country if possible. Details of some Cameroonian embassies can be seen here.

***Please send appeals immediately. Check with PEN International if sending appeals after 27 December 2012***

For further details please contact Tamsin Mitchell at the Writers in Prison Committee London Office: PEN International, Brownlow House, 50-51 High Holborn, London WC1V 6ER Tel: +44 (0) 207 405 0338 Fax +44 (0) 207 405 0339 email: tamsin.mitchell@pen-international.org

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