A military court in Cameroon has sentenced an opposition party leader to 25 years in prison following trial that has been branded as unfair by Amnesty International.
Aboubakar Siddiki, President of the main opposition party in northern Cameroon, ‘Mouvement patriotique du salut camerounais’, has been convicted of charges including hostility against the homeland, revolution and contempt of the President.
However, Amnesty International has said Aboubakar Siddiki who was arrested in August 2014 together with Abdoulaye Harissou, has been convicted despite “no credible evidence being presented to the court”. They were accused of being involved in a conspiracy to destabilise the country.
“Aboubakar Siddiki is the latest victim of the Cameroonian authorities’ strangling of opposition voices. Alongside Abdoulaye Harissou he has already spent more than three years in detention, suffered torture and now he must face a future behind bars on the basis of a politically motivated and deeply flawed trial,” said Ilaria Allegrozzi, Amnesty International’s Lake Chad Researcher.
In the same trial, Abdoulaye Harissou, was also sentenced to three years prison for non-denunciation.
A report by Amnesty International claims that the two were held incommunicado for over 40 days in an illegal facility run by the General Directorate of External Relations and subjected to torture following their arrest in 2014.
Initially charged with complicity in murder, illegal possession of arms, hostility against the homeland, revolution, non-denunciation and contempt of the President, their trial began on 22 January 2016. On 9 October 2017, all charges except ‘non-denunciation’ were dropped against Harissou, but those against Siddiki were maintained.
The court also dropped all charges against three journalists – Baba Wame, Felix Ebole Bola and Rodrigue Tongue –who were charged in 2014 with ‘non-denunciation’ of information and sources in relation to the same affair.
Amnesty International has called on the Cameroonian authorities to release and drop all charges against Aboubakar Siddiki and Abdoulaye Harissou while advising the Central African country to refrain from ever using military courts to prosecute civilians.
The government denies the charges are political.
Dozens of people have been killed and hundreds arrested in a crackdown in recent months on protests in Cameroon’s English-speaking regions.
Residents there say they suffer social and economic marginalisation in the predominantly Francophone country.
The protests have become a lightning rod for opposition to President Paul Biya’s 35-year rule.