March 31, 2011

President Paul Biya
Fax: +237 22 22 08 70
Mr. Philemon Yang
Prime Minister
Fax: +237 22 23 57 35

Your Excellencies,

On behalf of the 3,500 members of PEN American Center, an international organization of writers dedicated to protecting freedom of expression wherever it is threatened, we are writing to express our extreme alarm regarding the imprisonment of author Bertrand Teyou.

According to our information, on November 19, 2010, Teyou was found guilty of “insult to character” and of attempting to “organize an illegal demonstration.” He was subsequently ordered to pay a 2,030,150 CFA (US$4,371) fine or face up to two years in prison. We understand that the fine was imposed on him at the end of a summary trial in which he had no legal representation, and he was therefore unable to meet the 10-day deadline to appeal his sentence. He was subsequently unable to pay this fine and he is now serving a two-year prison sentence.

Teyou went on hunger strike in February 2011 to protest his treatment in prison. He is currently suffering from health problems linked to the poor diet that is offered there, including severe bleeding from hemorrhoids. According to Teyou, he has received medical treatment at Douala General Hospital, but only if and when he can pay for it. He says he also has to pay for a space to sleep in prison. There are mounting concerns for his well-being.

Teyou was arrested on November 3, 2010, for allegedly insulting Cameroon’s First Lady and for attempting to give a public reading from his 2010 book La belle de la République Bananière: Chantal Biya, de la rue au palais (The Belle of the Banana Republic: Chantal Biya, from the Streets to the Palace). He was detained for a week in a central Doulala police station before being transferred to New Bell prison on November 10, 2010. Teyou had reportedly notified the authorities of his intention to hold a book reading but was arrested before it could take place. Copies of his book were seized and destroyed; however the book has reportedly not been officially banned.

PEN American Center is deeply concerned that Bertrand Teyou has been imprisoned solely for exercising his right to freedom of expression, in violation of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Cameroon is a state party, and believes that he has been subjected to clear violations of due process. We therefore call for his immediate and unconditional release, as well as assurances of his well-being while in detention.

Thank you for your consideration of this urgent matter.

Hannah Pakula                                              
Chair, Freedom to Write Committee           
Larry Siems
Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs

CC: H.E. Joseph B. C. Foe Atangana
Embassy of the Republic of Cameroon
1700 Wisconsin Ave. NW.
Washington, DC 20008
Fax: (202) 387-3826

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