The state prosecutor in Cameroon asked a military tribunal in Yaoundé on Thursday to add a number of extra people to a terrorism case involving three Anglophone activists, a lawyer has told RFI. Human rights lawyer Felix Agbor Balla, university lecturer Fontem Neba and radio host Mancho Bibixy have pleaded not guilty to terrorism. They were involved in organising protests in Cameroon’s Anglophone regions over perceived marginalisation by the Francophone government.
The prosecutor requested that the court add “about 25 people” to the case against the three activists, according to lawyer Evaristus Morfaw. The so-called joinder process involves adding extra defendants to a case after a complaint has been filed.
“The defence counsel objected to it – the parties were not the same, the dates of commission of the offences were not the same – some of these people were arrested when the others were already charged and arraigned before the court and they took their plea,” said Morfaw. “It would be wrong to join them with people who have been brought to court afresh.”
The three had already appeared in court on 13 February and the case was adjourned. A hearing about the joinder process will be held on 7 April with the main case starting on 27 April, according to Morfaw, who represents both Agbor Balla and Bibixy.
“Cases for which there can be joinder are limited,” said Morfaw, saying that in his opinion the conditions for a joinder process have not been met in this case. “These other cases are very different from the case that was already pending in court.”
The prosecutor has not presented any evidence or witnesses in the case against the three activists, according to the lawyer. Neither has evidence or witnesses been brought before the court in the case against the additional defendants.
“They want people to forget about the atrocities and think of some other thing so that the vigour should be watered down and frustrate the defence counsel,” said Morfaw. “The charges look alike, but as to the evidence, we don’t have an iota of evidence against any of them,” he added.
The three accused had previously been involved in calling for protests in Cameroon’s Anglophone regions. Agbor Balla and Neba played a role in organising so-called ‘Ghost town’ protests which brought English-speaking cities such as Bamenda and Buea to standstill. Mancho was also involved in demonstrations notably carrying a coffin during a march.
Anglophone activists are angry about a perceived lack of education provision for the English language and non-recognition of the Anglophone legal system.
Cameroon was divided up into French and British administrative zones as laid out in the 1919 London Declaration. The British zone represented some 20 per cent of the country before Cameroon became a country, comprising both the British and French zones, gaining independence in 1961.