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In his cell in Cameroon, awaiting trial for homosexuality

Arrested in June, locked up in July, Samuel Gervais Akam remains in a cell in Cameroon’s overcrowded New Bell prison, awaiting trial on charges of homosexuality.

Alice Nkom, avocat de Samuel Gervais Akam. (Photo de ChangingAttitude.org.uk)
Human rights advocate Alice Nkom, who is the lawyer for Samuel Gervais Akam and almost every other LGBT person arrested in Cameroon. (Photo courtesy of ChangingAttitude.org.uk)

His story, told by sources close to Akam, is an ambiguous and complex tale about a married middle-aged pastry chef whose dispute with an 18-year-old boy about money and sex landed him in prison.

It started June 24 when the two met after nearly three months of dialogue on Gayromeo, a gay dating site that is popular with gay men in Cameroon. The rendezvous was between Akam, 42, of Douala, and Arold, 18, a vendor in the nearby Deido area.

When they met, everything seemed fine and Arold agreed to sex. Afterwards, when the time came to part, Akam gave Arold 2,000 FCFA (about $4) for transportation.

Arold said that was too little. Instead, he asked for 50,000 FCFA (about $100). Annoyed, Akam agreed to pay that much but not right away; he handed Arold his laptop and mobile phone as a sign of good faith.

But only a few hours later, after Arold has borrowed a motorcycle to depart, Akam followed him and caught up to him at the Ominisports Stadium in Bepanda.

“Thief!” Akam shouted. “You bandit, give me back my stuff!”

A crowd gathered. They were about to seize Arold when he cried out, “He fucked me and he did not pay. That’s why I have this stuff.”

The scene caught the attention of a police patrol, which took both men in for questioning and seized the laptop as evidence.

At the Bonanjo police station, investigators turned on the computer and found videos of Akam having sex with different men.

Those men are no longer in Cameroon, Akam said. Some of the videos were shot during a birthday party at his home, he said, and another one was from a visit with an expatriate couple in Kribi, Cameroon. One of the men in the videos was his first partner, which apparently is why he kept them.

The PC containing “obscene and shocking” images was sealed and placed in the custody of the clerk at the High Court in Bonanjo.

Legal authorities concluded that these “images of the practice of homosexuality” were enough to merit holding Akam at the New Bell central prison, starting July 2, while he awaits his trial.

Under current law in Cameroon, the practice of homosexuality is punishable by a prison sentence of as long as five years.

At present, Akam is stagnating in New Bell prison, receiving material assistance (soaps, bath oil and food) only from the gay rights groups Alternatives Cameroon and the Association for the Defence of Homosexuals (ADEFHO).

His predicament worsened in August, when his wife died after a long illness. He is downtrodden psychologically and without medical attention as he awaits his trial.

On the prosecution’s side, the case is apparently still under investigation. No date has been set for Akam’s trial.

For the defense, longtime gay rights defender Alice Nkom is on the case.

— Eric O. LEMBEMBE

En français: Dans sa cellule, il attend son procès pour homosexualité  (76crimes.com)

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