Friday, September 6, 2019

Maurice Kamto: Case adjourned again till Friday October 8th, 2019


The trial of Maurice Kamto, the main opponent of the Cameroonian president to Paul Biya and second in the 2018 presidential election, was returned Friday to October 8 from its opening in the military court of Yaounde, which judges including "insurrection" with 88 of his followers.

The defendants theoretically incur the death penalty, even though it is no longer applied in Cameroon.

The discomfort at the hearing of one of them, Christian Penda Ekoka, ex-economic adviser to President Biya, motivated the dismissal of the trial, said Michel Ntchalé, one of Mr Kamto's lawyers.

This trial, which has provoked criticism and concern in the international community, has opened up in a country long regarded as an island of stability in Central Africa, where President Paul Biya, who has reigned supreme for 36 years, is increasingly more contentious and facing other crises: separatist rebellion of Anglophones in the west and recrudescence of Boko Haram attacks in the north.

At dawn, an impressive security device was deployed and prevented access to the court by activists who chanted "Kamto president", the opposition having called massively to the trial.

About 200 policemen in riot gear were at a junction below the court, reports an AFP journalist. Others, armed, patrolled in pickup trucks. Above, about 50 members of the security forces were filtering the entrances to the building.

Mr. Kamto arrived late in the morning, brought by armed gendarmes, told AFP his lawyer, Emmanuel Simh.

Since the proclamation of the victory of Mr. Biya in the presidential election of 8 October 2018, for a seventh consecutive term, peaceful demonstrations were organized in several cities by the Movement for the Renaissance of Cameroon (MRC) of Mr. Kamto, the one of the main opposition parties, came in second with 14.23% of the vote according to official government results, but still considers winning the election.

It was after one of these marches that the opposition leader and hundreds of supporters were arrested by the police at the end of January.

After more than seven months of imprisonment, 89 people were to be tried starting Friday for "hostility against the fatherland", "rebellion" and "insurrection".

- "Political Alibi" -

"There is no justification for Mr. Kamto and his supporters to be incarcerated for eight months in these conditions," said their French lawyer, Antoine Vey, on Thursday.

"None of them took part in acts of violence, none called for acts of violence or rebellion, there is no reason for their arrest outside the political alibi," he added. which seized at the end of April the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention of the United Nations.

Kamto, 65, and his allies said Monday "to be ready to face justice for the truth to come out in this case".

A lawyer at the Paris Bar and former Minister Delegate for Justice in Cameroon, Mr Kamto also enjoys support in this trial of international NGOs and some Western powers.

- "Pressure" on Biya -

In March, the United States said it would be "wise to release him", closely followed by the European Union, which had spoken of "disproportionate procedure".

Human rights groups had denounced the jurisdiction of the military court to try these civilians. "The authorities must release them immediately and abandon all charges against them," Amnesty International urged at the end of July.

Long silent, France, former colonial power, had come out of its silence at the end of May, also demanding their release. "We know the qualities of Mr. Kamto, we strongly pressure President Biya so that he can act and expand these prisoners," said Tuesday the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jean-Yves Le Drian.

The opponent's lawyers forwarded to the military court a list of 31 witnesses, including two ministers, the chief of the police and other high-ranking army and police officers.

Among the defendants who will be appearing alongside Mr. Kamto, and Christian Penda Ekoka are a famous rapper, Valsero, known for his lyrics critical of the Yaoundé regime.