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Prison for texting ‘I love you’? Petition pleads, ‘No!’

Jean-Claude Roger Mbede displays the text message that led to his 3-year prison sentence. (Photo courtesy of allout.org)
Jean-Claude Roger Mbede displays the text message that led to his 3-year prison sentence. (Photo courtesy of AllOut.org)

“I’m very much in love with you.”

That text message, which Jean-Claude Roger Mbede of Cameroon sent to another man, led to his three-year prison sentence.

Now, with a court hearing looming for Mbede, the activist organization AllOut.org is making a final publicity drive in hopes of persuading the Cameroonian government to keep him out of prison.

Early last year Mbede was sentenced to three years for homosexuality, which under Cameroonian law is punishable by imprisonment for up to five years.

In July, he was released for medical treatment, but now faces a court hearing that could result in his return to prison.

AllOut.org stated:

Roger just spent a year in prison in Cameroon. His so-called crime? He sent another man an SMS that said “I’m very much in love w/u.” Roger’s got a new appeal hearing on Monday, but is facing another 2 years in prison unless we act.

We have just a few days to keep Roger from going back to jail, where he faced abuse from the guards and horrible health conditions. Cameroon’s President Paul Biya and the Minister of Justice have the authority to free Roger and end the terrible anti-gay laws that put him away in the first place. The President has been swayed in the past by international pressure, and knows that Cameroon’s reputation is at stake.

The group is seeking 10,000 signatures on an online petition to Cameroonian officials. As of today, the petition had been signed by 2,500 people. [By Sept. 17, the number had grown to 102,098.]

For more information about Mbede’s story, see the blog post from July 21, “Gay in Cameroon: after beatings in prison, rejection at home.”

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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