Cameroon drops charges against anti-Biya activists

A court in the Cameroonian city of Douala has dropped charges against 52 opposition supporters who had been protesting against the re-election of 85-year old President Paul Biya.

Opposition candidate Maurice Kamto of the Cameroon Renaissance Movement (MRC) party, disputes the official results, alleging widespread fraud.

The activists had been in detention since October, all expect Barrister Michelle Ndoki, a senior MRC official.

He told the BBC that the public prosecutor dropped the charges “on the instructions of the minister of justice”.

It was a relief that sometimes “things can go right” in Cameroon, he said.

But he added that the “trumped-up charges only illustrate that freedom of speech, and freedom generally, is still a problem in Cameroon”.

The 52 had been accused of “insurrection” and holding “illegal demonstrations that threatened to disrupt public order” and if found guilty could have faced long jail terms.

Meanwhile, the case against journalist Michel Biem Tong – who was due to appear before a military court on charges of insulting the head of state, propagating false information and terrorism – has been adjourned until 2 January.

The director of the Hurinews site was arrested on 23 October after he was suspected of making WhatsApp recordings calling on Anglophone separatists to resist the government.

Mr Biya, in power since 1982, won a seventh term with 71.3% of the vote on 7 October.

But voter turnout was low in the country’s two English-speaking areas where people complain of marginalisation. The North West and South West regions have been hit by more than a year of violent protests and attacks by separatist rebels.

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