25 April 2017

Cameroon: Reporter Ahmed Abba to Appeal 10-Year Terrorism Sentence

Photo: Rfi
Ahmed Abba

A Cameroon journalist jailed for 10 years for terrorism will appeal the verdict, his lawyer said.

Yaoundé military court on Monday sentenced Ahmed Abba, a local correspondent of Radio France Internationale (RFI), to 10 years in prison on charges of terrorism.

Abba's lawyer said he would appeal the conviction and sentence that has attracted heavy criticisms from rights groups.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) Africa programme coordinator, Ms Angela Quintal, said the "outrageous sentence" signalled the lengths that Cameroon authorities were willing to go to intimidate the media and thwart freedom of the press.

"Ahmed Abba should never have been detained, prosecuted, and convicted for his journalism--let alone ordered to spend a decade behind bars," said Ms Angela Quintal.

CONTROVERSIAL LAW

Abba had been convicted for "non-denunciation of terrorism" and "laundering of the proceeds of terrorist acts" and could have been sentenced to death under a controversial anti-terrorism law of the country. He was also fined $92,000 (FCFA 55.7 million).

Abba who spent over 633 days in detention, had denied having any links with the Nigeria-based Boko Haram jihadist group. The military tribunal acquitted the journalist of the charge of "apologising for acts of terrorism".

London-based rights group Amnesty International said Abba's "unfair trial" was a travesty of justice.

"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 Ms Ilaria Allegrozzi, the Amnesty International's Lake Chad researcher.

WITHHOLDING INFORMATION

Abba, who reported for RFI's Hausa language service from Cameroon's Boko Haram-prone Far North, was arrested in July 2015 on suspicion of having collaborated with the jihadist group and withholding information in connection with his coverage of insurgencies by the group from Cameroonian authorities.

Three other local journalists were standing trial in the same court over similar charges.

Mr Rodrique Tongue, of Le Messager daily newspaper (now working for a local TV station), Mr Felix Cyriaque Ebole Bola of Mutations daily newspaper and Dr Baba Wame, a lecturer with the Advanced School of Mass Communication in Yaoundé, were accused of "non-denunciation" or concealing dangerous information concerning state security. They have all pleaded not guilty to the charges.

DEATH PENALTY

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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