Yaoundé – A military tribunal in Cameroon has jailed dozens of opposition supporters for terms of up to seven years for “rebellion”, their party’s deputy secretary general said on Monday.
The 47 defendants were arrested in September 2020 as Maurice Kamto’s Movement for the Rebirth of Cameroon (MRC) and several other parties planned protests against the government of Paul Biya, in power for nearly 40 years in the central African country.
Police dispersed hundreds of protesters in the economic capital Douala and made more than 500 arrests across the country. Of those, 124 remain in detention, according to the MRC.
The military tribunal in the capital Yaounde sentenced 47 activists, with Kamto’s spokesman Olivier Bibou Nissack and the party’s treasurer Alain Fogue getting seven-year terms, Roger Noah told AFP.
The rest were given terms of between one and five years, he said.
The charges included “rebellion” and “attempted insurrection”, according to MRC vice president Emmanuel Simh.
In September, a group of around 50 lawyers said they would not mount a defence for around 100 detained opposition members, denouncing what they described as the arbitrary and illegal nature of their detention.
Kamto – runner-up to Biya in a 2018 presidential election – was imprisoned in January 2019 following a march protesting the vote during which he presented himself as “president-elect”.
Following international pressure, Biya ordered him freed nine months.
The government has said that those held since September 2020 face charges of “attempted insurrection” or “revolution”.
Some have already been convicted.
Two months after their arrest, Amnesty International accused the Biya government of “relentless repression of opposition” members characterised by “arbitrary arrests and detentions”.
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