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Seized by anti-gay mob; 11 weeks in Cameroon jail; no trial

Location of Limbe in Cameroon (Map courtesy of Penpals-du-Monde.blogspot.com)
Location of Limbe in Cameroon (Map courtesy of Penpals-du-Monde.blogspot.com)

A Cameroon man remains in prison awaiting trial on homosexuality charges because his family has not been able to raise money for bail.

Cornelius Fonya has been incarcerated since Oct. 29, when he was arrested after a mob seized him, accused him of having sex with a man, and delivered him to the police station in the coastal city of Limbe.

On Dec. 23, a judge agreed to release him on bail of 700,000 CFA (about $1,420 or 1,060 euros), but Fonya’s family has been unable to raise that sum, Human Rights Watch reports.  The average annual income in Cameroon is about $2,300.

Human rights lawyer Walter M. Atoh Tchemi is representing Fonya. His client was arrested on the basis of the mob’s accusation, which in turn was based on accusations by two men who said Fonya had made advances toward them, Atoh said.

Fonya is accused of being caught in the act of homosexual sex, but Atoh said his client was not caught in the act of having sex with anyone.

Under Cameroonian law, homosexual activity is punishable by prison sentences of up to five years.

Under that law, three people are currently held in Cameroonian prisons and 13 more are awaiting trials that could lead to imprisonment.

The Cameroon government is under pressure to suspend that law from the United Nations human rights organization and from local and international human rights groups.

Fonya pleaded not guilty to the charges on Nov. 7, but was denied bail until Dec. 23. The next hearing in his case is scheduled for Feb. 13, at which time Atoh will seek lower bail.

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. After his retirement from paid newspaper work in 2011, he launched Erasing 76 Crimes and helped with the Spirit of 76 campaign that assembled a multi-national team of 26 LGBTI rights activists to advocate for change during the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., in July 2012. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, including the Erasing 76 Crimes news site and the African Human Rights Media Network. Contact him via Twitter @76crimes or by email at info@76crimes.com. Mailing address: 21 Marseille, Laguna Niguel CA 92677 USA.

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