Cameroon: 29 supporters of the MRC sentenced to one year in prison

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29 people arrested following the peaceful marches organized by the MRC of Maurice Kamto in late January were sentenced to 12 months imprisonment. Although 11 others were found not guilty, the defense denounced an "unfounded" decision and promised to appeal as early as March 12.

"We and our 160 comrades, held in various prisons in Cameroon, are political prisoners," he said. Maurice Kamto and four of his allies of the Movement for the Renaissance of Cameroon (MRC), in a statement released on March 11. Attributing their incarceration to the political demands made during peaceful marches organized the 26 January in Yaoundé - the recount of the votes of the last presidential election, and a consensual reform of the electoral process -, they rejected "the allegations of the Minister of Communication", René Emmanuel Sadi, who had claimed that they were detained for "common law facts".

Firm prison

A statement that came after the first conviction, the 11 March, of some of the MRC militants arrested in Yaounde in the context of peaceful marches organized by the movement. At the end of the trial, 29 of the day's defendants were sentenced to one year in prison on the grounds of "gathering" and "protest".

At the same time, 11 others were found not guilty, and their immediate release was ordered by the court. Among them, three supporters of the MRC were arrested two days after the demonstrations in a cafe in Yaounde.

A conviction that did not satisfy the defense, who wanted to make it known.

THIS DECISION IS FAR FROM LEGAL, IT IS POLITICAL

"We are extremely disappointed because this decision is not based on what has been debated. No documents were provided to establish the guilt of the clients. This decision is far from legal, it is political. "Said Yves Ndzode, one of the defense lawyers. "We will appeal this decision tomorrow [12 March, ed]," he added.

A combination of penalties?

The trial of the first wave of activists in the MRC was notably sparked by a debate on Article 51 of the Penal Code. Since both charges against the defendants are each punishable by up to 6 months imprisonment, some lawyers considered the judge to have concurrent sentences. This is prohibited by the Code of Criminal Procedure.

THIS IS A PARODY OF JUSTICE

"Illegal demonstrations are sanctioned with double imprisonment, that is to say, twelve months, when aggravating circumstances are recognized. This is the case when the defendants have exceeded the prohibition of authority, said Me Hippolyte Meli, another defense lawyer. But how can the judge recognize circumstances of aggravation when the prosecutor himself did not claim it and that was not the subject of the debate? One is tempted to dismiss this hypothesis, and thus to conclude that the judge has accumulated sentences.

"The violation of the law is flagrant. We do not cumulate penalties. We do not condemn to the highest sentence the primary offenders, it's a travesty of justice, "added Yves Ndzode.

For its part, the trial of Maurice Kamto, which is the subject of a procedure at the level of the military court, has been referred several times. The opponent, who saw his request for release rejected by the Yaounde Military Court on 7 March, does not lack support, including in France, where the president Emmanuel Macron follows the file closely. SOURCE: https://www.jeuneafrique.com/747960/societe/cameroun-29-sympathisants-du-mrc-condamnes-a-un-an-de-prison-ferme/