26 jailed over protests in Cameroon as repression heightens

“(The decision) is scandalous — it goes against every rule of the law.”
A man holds a paper with the writing in French “a call to dismiss the dictator” in front of a crowd of supporters of the leader of the Cameroonian opposition party Movement for the Rebirth of Cameroon (MRC) as popular Cameroonian rapper “General” Valsero performs in Yaounde, on September 30, 2018 during an electoral campaign rally, prior to the October 7 vote. (Photo by MARCO LONGARI / AFP)

Twenty-six people who were arrested in Cameroon in January during protests called by opposition leader Maurice Kamto have been given one-year jail terms, one of their lawyers said Wednesday.

The sentences for “illegal gathering and demonstration” were issued late Monday by a court in the capital Yaounde, said Sylvain Souop, an attorney for Kamto’s party, the Movement for the Rebirth of Cameroon (MRC).

“We have filed an appeal,” he said. “(The decision) is scandalous — it goes against every rule of the law.”

“At least 12” of those sentenced are MRC members while the others had been planning to take part in a non-political demonstration scheduled to be held in Yaounde the same day, he said.

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Eleven other detainees were released, he said.

Kamto and dozens of supporters were also arrested over the demonstration, which the MRC chief had called to protest over last October’s presidential elections.

Head of state Paul Biya, 86, was re-elected to a seventh straight term with 71 percent of the vote, followed by Kamto with 14.2 percent, according to official figures for the poll.

The arrests were criticised by the European Union and Amnesty International, while the United States urged Cameroon to release Kamto, saying that his detention was widely perceived as politically motivated.

Kamto was charged on February 2 with “rebellion” and “insurrection.”

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