PEN International welcomes the release of editors Robert Mintya (Le Devoir) and Serge Sabouang (La Nation) on November 24, 2010, on orders of the president. The journalists, who had been imprisoned for alleged forgery since February, were released conditionally pending trial but no date has been announced yet. PEN welcomes their release but calls for all charges against them to be dropped. PEN also calls for a full and transparent investigation into the death of co-defendant Germain “Bibi” Ngota Ngota, editor of Cameroun Express, who died in prison on April 22, 2010, and calls too for the immediate and unconditional release of singer-songwriter Lapiro de Mbanga, who has been detained since April 2008.

Background Information

According to PEN’s information, editors Robert Mintya (Le Devoir) and Serge Sabouang (La Nation) were arrested and briefly detained in early February 2010, along with editor Germain “Bibi” Ngota Ngota (Cameroun Express), and reporter Simon Hervé Nko’o (Bebela). The journalists had been investigating alleged corruption involving Laurent Esso, Secretary General of the President’s Office, and the state-run oil company, National Hydrocarbons Company (SNH), of which Esso is also board chairman. Nko’o, who was reportedly tortured while in custody, went into hiding following his release.
 
Mintya, Sabouang and Ngota were re-arrested on February 26 and charged with forging Esso’s signature in a document and using it in an attempt to discredit him. They were transferred to Kondengui prison in the capital of Yaoundé on March 10.
 
Ngota died in custody on April 22, due to a lack of medical attention, according to his death certificate. The government has denied this and other allegations of torture, and maintained that Ngota died “as a result of opportunistic infections linked to HIV.” Ngota’s widow denies that Ngota had the HIV virus, and his brother says that the journalist was tortured in February when he was arrested and taken to Cameroon's Directorate-General of External Intelligence, known by its French acronym as DGRE.
 
On August 8, Mintya was reportedly beaten around the head by another prison inmate, causing him to lose consciousness. He was admitted to the prison infirmary and was transferred on August 25 to Yaoundé Central Hospital but reportedly had no access to free medical care.
 
A date has not yet been set for Mintya and Sabouang’s trial. If convicted, they reportedly face up to 20 years in prison.
 
Meanwhile, singer-songwriter Lapiro de Mbanga (aka Pierre Roger Lambo Sandjo) remains behind bars. Mbanga’s final appeal and request for parole have still not been considered by the Supreme Court despite him having already served two and a half years of a three-year prison sentence for allegedly taking part in anti-government riots in 2008.

Write A Letter

  • Welcoming the release of editors Robert Mintya and Serge Sabouang;
  • Calling, however, for all charges against them to be dropped;
  • Stressing to the Cameroonian authorities that they should conduct a thorough investigation into the death of co-defendant Germain “Bibi” Ngota Ngota, who was imprisoned on the same charges as Mintya and Sabouang, and died in custody on April 22, 2010, due to lack of medical attention;
  • Calling too for the immediate and unconditional release of Cameroonian singer-songwriter Lapiro de Mbanga (aka Pierre Roger Lambo Sandjo), who PEN believes is detained in violation of his right to freedom of expression.

Send Your Letter To

President
President Paul Biya
Fax: +237 22 22 08 70
Email: cellcom@prc.cm
Messages may also be sent via the presidency’s web site

Prime Minister
Mr. Philemon Yang, Prime Minister
Fax: +237 22 23 57 35
Email: spm@spm.gov.cm

Please copy appeals to the diplomatic representative for Cameroon in your country if possible.

Please contact PEN if sending appeals after December 12, 2010: ftw [at] pen.org