Cameroon police reportedly arrested a man as payback for foiling a planned attack on a gay acquaintance, human rights activists say.
Joseph Messina, 25, was reportedly arrested Dec. 24, was beaten, and is being held at Yaounde Central Prison, awaiting a court hearing on Jan. 28.
Messina says he does not know the actual charges against him. Police have accused him of assault, being a defender of gays, and possibly also theft or fraud.
This is the activists’ account of what led up to Messina’s arrest and what occurred afterwards:
Messina was a friend of a man known as Kevin who lived in the Messassi neighborhood of the Cameroon capital, Yaounde, with another man with whom Kevin planned and carried out attacks on homosexuals. A fourth man, identified as F. Belinga, was suppposed to be one of the next victims.
Messina, an acquaintance of Belinga, alerted him to that plan and told him Kevin’s real name. Indignant, Belinga contacted Kevin, who quickly began to suspect that Messina was the person who had revealed his plan. Kevin searched through Messina’s telephone and determined that he had indeed been in contact with Belinga. Kevin confronted Messina, but he denied having warned Belinga. Kevin revealed his evidence that Messina had tipped off Belinga and vowed he would get revenge on Messina for having ruined his scheme.
Kevin and his friends on the police force laid a trap for Messina. He was invited on Dec. 24 to the Vieux Panier area, between the neighborhoods of Anguissa and Emombo. Once he arrived, Messina was beaten by police and taken to the 8th District police station in the Madagascar quarter, accused of assault, of being a defender of gays, and possibly also of theft or fraud.
He was held in police custody for several days, during which he was beaten and suffered extensive injuries of the mouth, hand and feet. Bloodied and under threat of torture, without knowing the charges against him, Messina said he was forced to sign investigatory documents. He was then transferred to the Yaounde Central Prison without appearing in court. To this day, he is still being held in that prison and insists that he does not know the actual charges against him. A court hearing in his case is scheduled for Jan. 28.
Human rights activists cited several legal violations in the handling of the case, including Messina’s lack of legal representation and the lack of specific charges against him.
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- Open letter to Cameroon leader: Stop jailing LGBTs (76crimes.com)
- Gay Cameroonian wins asylum in Switzerland (thelocal.ch)
- UN Blasts Cameroon’s Anti-gay Laws (voanews.com)