CAMEROON: Seven-year sentence confirmed for Enoh Meyomesse, winner of Oxfam Novib / PEN Freedom of Expression Award 2012
8 January 2013 RAN 04/12 – update #6
The Writers in Prison Committee of PEN International protests in the strongest possible terms the seven-year prison sentence handed down to writer and activist Enoh Meyomesse on 27 December 2012, more than a year after his arrest. PEN believes Meyomesse’s conviction on charges of supposed complicity in the theft and illegal sale of gold to be politically motivated and calls on the Cameroonian authorities to quash the conviction and to release him immediately and unconditionally. Today it is announced that Meyomesse is to be honoured with an Oxfam Novib / PEN Freedom of Expression Award.
On 27 December 2012 the writer, historian and political activist Enoh Meyomesse was sentenced to seven years in prison and a fine of 200,000 CFA (£247), as requested by the state prosecutor. The sentencing follows Meyomesse’s conviction on 14 December of supposed complicity in the theft and illegal sale of gold. The writer had already spent 13 months in prison before being sentenced. PEN believes his detention and the charges to be politically motivated.
The three other defendants in the case were sentenced to custodial terms of between two and nine years. Meyomesse’s lawyers are currently in the process of launching an appeal.
Today Meyomesse is named as a recipient of an Oxfam Novib / PEN Freedom of Expression Award, which will be presented in his absence at a ceremony during The Writers Unlimited Winternachten Festival in The Hague on 17 January 2013. Here is an excerpt from his acceptance speech:
‘Rulers use the most ideal and least threatening alibi for them, the accusation of having committed a common crime, to silence us, dissidents, a situation similar to what happened during the Cold War in Eastern European dictatorships, in the Greece of colonels, in Portugal under the dictatorship of Salazar, in Spain under Franco.
‘Luckily, you, people from the North, souls of good will from Western countries where democracy is truly established, stand resolutely on our side. In doing so you prove that people’s freedom and solidarity does not know boundaries.
‘In presenting this award to the wretched writer that I am, captive in the depths of a Cameroonian jail, you have joined your powerful voice to mine and to that of the many anonymous men and women who are incarcerated in my country because their opinion has not pleased some high-ranking officials in the state apparatus who therefore used judges to unleash their vengeance against them.’
(Translation by Patrice Nganang)
Meyomesse, 57, is the author of numerous books and is a founding member of the Cameroon Writers Association. Arrested on 22 November 2011, Meyomesse was initially charged with attempting to organise a coup, possessing a firearm and aggravated theft. Meyomesse denied all charges and maintained that he had been arrested because of views expressed in his writings, and for his political activism. Meyomesse was a candidate for the presidential election on 9 October 2011, under the banner of the opposition party United National Front (UNF).
Since the moment of Meyomesse’s arrest, there were serious concerns about the charges against him, and also about his treatment in prison, which at times amounted to torture. There were reports that the prosecution had fabricated evidence, and that Meyomesse was denied proper legal representation for the first few months of his incarceration. Amnesty International considers Meyomesse to be a prisoner of conscience.
By June 2012, all of the charges against Meyomesse had been dropped, however in July 2012 the WiPC learned that a judge had ordered the extension of Meyomesse’s detention so that the prosecutor could ostensibly search for evidence against the writer. Meyomesse was subsequently charged with being an accomplice to theft and illegal traffic of gold and, after numerous procedural delays was found guilty as charged on 14 December 2012.
The WIPC has campaigned on Meyomesse’s behalf since his arrest, in collaboration with a small group of his friends and supporters who visit him regularly in prison. These supporters have been subjected to attacks by pro-government media, and in one case, to arrest.
Meyomesse is currently held in the over-crowded Kondengui Central Prison in Yaoundé. His first month in detention was spent in solitary confinement and in complete darkness, which reportedly provoked a debilitating eye condition which could have left him blind.
For more information about the Oxfam Novib / PEN Freedom of Expression Award click here.
Please send appeals:
Protesting the conviction of writer and activist Enoh Meyomesse on charges of supposed complicity in the theft and illegal sale of gold, and the seven-year prison sentence handed down to him on 27 December 2012;
Noting that PEN believes the case against him to be politically motivated and that Meyomesse is the recipient of an Oxfam Novib / PEN Freedom of Expression Award 2012;
Calling on the Cameroonian authorities to quash the conviction and to release Meyomesse immediately and unconditionally.
President Paul Biya
Fax: +237 22 22 08 70
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Minister of Justice
Hon. Minister of Justice Laurent Esso
Ministry of Justice
Fax: +237 22 23 00 05
Mr. Philemon Yang, Prime Minister
Fax: +237 22 23 57 35
Please copy appeals to the diplomatic representative for Cameroon in your country if possible. Details of some Cameroonian embassies can be seen here: http://embassy.goabroad.com/embassies-of/cameroon
***Please send appeals immediately. Check with PEN International if sending appeals after 7 March 2012***
For further details please contact Tamsin Mitchell at the Writers in Prison Committee London Office: PEN International, Brownlow House, 50-51 High Holborn, London WC1V 6ER Tel: +44 (0) 207 405 0338 Fax +44 (0) 207 405 0339 email: firstname.lastname@example.org