International PEN is seriously concerned about the health of Le Devoir editor Robert Mintya, who has been imprisoned pending trial for alleged forgery since February 2010. Mintya has recently been transferred to the hospital after being attacked by another prisoner, but reportedly has limited access to medical care. PEN recalls the April 22, 2010, death in custody of Cameroun Express editor Germain “Bibi” Ngota Ngota, which was attributed to a lack of medical attention, and calls on the Cameroonian authorities to ensure that Mintya receives adequate care. It calls for the immediate and unconditional release of Mintya and co-defendant Serge Sabouang, editor of La Nation, as well as of singer-songwriter Lapiro de Mbanga (aka Pierre Roger Lambo Sandjo), all detained in violation of their right to freedom of expression. It also calls for an end to the harassment of recently-released publisher Lewis Medjo.

Background Information

Robert Mintya, editor of the newspaper Le Devoir, was reportedly beaten around the head by another prison inmate on August 8, 2010, causing him to lose consciousness. He was admitted to the prison infirmary and was transferred to Yaoundé Central Hospital on August 25. However, he reportedly has only limited access to medical care. This is all the more alarming given that Cameroun Express editor Germain “Bibi” Ngota Ngota, a co-defendant in the same case, died in prison on April 22, 2010. Ngota’s health had deteriorated since his imprisonment, and, according to his death certificate, he died from a lack of medical attention.

Mintya and Ngota were arrested and briefly detained in early February 2010, along with Serge Sabouang, editor of the newspaper La Nation, and Simon Hervé Nko’o, journalist for the weekly newspaper Bebela. The arrests were in response to the journalists’ investigation of allegations of 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 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 Yaoundé on March 10. Ngota died on April 22. Mintya and Sabouang reportedly face up to 20 years in prison if convicted. The whereabouts of Nko’o, who is now said to have forged the document in question, are still not known.
 
It is thought that the attack on Mintya may have been reprisal for his implication of other people in the forgery case. Mintya was reportedly told that he would be freed if he signed a statement saying that he had been led astray. He then wrote a number of letters to Esso apologizing for the forgery, some of which were published in L’Anecdote, a newspaper that supports Esso. When he failed to secure his release, Mintya reportedly wrote more letters accusing other leading Cameroonian personalities of perpetrating the forgery.

PEN also protests the continuing imprisonment of singer-songwriter Lapiro de Mbanga (real name: Pierre Roger Lambo Sandjo) and the ongoing harassment of Lewis Medjo, journalist and publisher of the Douala weekly newspaper La Détente Libre, who was recently released from prison.
 
Mbanga’s final appeal and request for parole have still not been considered by the Supreme Court despite having served almost two and a half years of his three-year prison sentence for allegedly taking part in anti-government riots in 2008. PEN believes that Mbanga, who is known as an outspoken critic of the Cameroonian government both as a songwriter and an opposition party member, is being punished for his critical views, in violation of his right to freedom of expression.
 
Medjo, who was released from prison on May 16, 2010, after serving 20 months in prison for allegedly “publishing false news” about President Biya, says he has recently been summoned by the police who questioned and threatened him about his sources for an article. Some contributors to his newspaper have reportedly also received anonymous threats since his release. Medjo suffered serious health problems while in prison which went largely untreated, causing him to lose hearing in one ear.

Write A Letter

  •  Expressing serious concern for the health of Le Devoir editor Robert Mintya, who has been transferred to a hospital after being attacked by another prisoner, but reportedly has only limited access to medical care;
  •  Reminding the Cameroonian authorities that Cameroun Express editor Germain “Bibi” Ngota Ngota, who was imprisoned on the same charges, died in custody on April 22, 2010, due to lack of medical attention, heightening concerns for Mintya’s well-being, and thus making it imperative that he receive adequate care;
  • Calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Mintya and co-defendant Serge Sabouang, editor of La Nation, as well as for that of singer-songwriter Lapiro de Mbanga (aka Pierre Roger Lambo Sandjo), all of whom PEN believes are detained in violation of their right to freedom of expression;
  • Calling too for an end to the harassment of La Détente Libre publisher Lewis Medjo, who was released from prison in May but has reportedly since been subjected to police harrassment and other threats.  

Send Your Letter To

President
President Paul Biya
Fax: +237 22 22 08 70
Email: cellcom@prc.cm

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

Please also send appeals to the diplomatic representatives of Cameroon in your country if possible.

Please send appeals immediately. Check with PEN if sending appeals after Novermber 2, 2010: ftw[at]pen.org