Cameroon: Release of Anglophone leaders a relief but others still languish in prison

In response to today’s presidential decision to drop all charges against civil society leaders and several others arrested in connection with the unrest in recent months in the Anglophone region in Cameroon, Samira Daoud, Amnesty International’s deputy regional director for West and Central Africa said:
“Today’s decision to drop all charges and release of Anglophone civil society leaders, including Barrister Nkongho Felix Agbor-Balla and Dr Fontem Aforteka’a Neba, and several others who spent over six months in jail is an enormous relief and welcome news for everyone who has been campaigning for this outcome. They should never have been arrested and prosecuted in the first place for simply helping to organize peaceful, non-violent protests.
“However, we should not forget that the Cameroonian authorities are detaining many other individuals on spurious charges related to national security.
“Fomusoh Ivo Feh and his two friends were jailed for 10 years for nothing more than sharing a private joke about Boko Haram by text message. Ahmed Abba, a journalist for Radio France Internationale’s Hausa service, is also languishing in jail for simply exercising his right to freedom of expression. They should be released immediately and unconditionally.
“Aboubakar Siddiki, leader of the political party Mouvement patriotique du salut camerounais, and Abdoulaye Harissou, a well-known notary, have also been held in detention for more than three years without trial on trumped-up charges.”
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This afternoon, a presidential decree read on national public radio indicated that President Paul Biya had decided to drop all charges against Nkongho Felix Agbor, Fontem Neba, Paul Ayah Abine and others arrested during unrest in the North-West and South-West regions of Cameroon.
According to the decree, the decision was taken in line with the various measures already taken by authorities to bring pacific solutions to concerns expressed by populations from the North-West and South-West regions.
Barrister Nkongho Felix Agbor-Balla and Dr Fontem Aforteka’a Neba, respectively the president and Secretary-General of the Cameroon Anglophone Civil Society Consortium (CACSC) were arrested on 17 January 2017.
Both had signed public statements calling for protests to be carried out without violence. They were charged with eight counts in a military court for fostering hostility against the government, secession, civil war, propagation of false information, collective resistance and incitement to take up arms. They faced a possible death sentence if convicted.