Diderot Atsafack, a 25-year-old gay man, has paid the equivalent of US$470 to regain his liberty after spending two and a half years in a Cameroonian prison on homosexuality-related charges, attorney Michel Togué reports.
Atsafack was arrested in Oct. 17, 2011, in large part because he refused to reveal his sexual orientation and the identity of this lover. He has remained in prison since his arrest. Charges of misappropriation of public funds were upheld against him on March 11, 2013, in the Centre state Court of Appeal, High Court of Mfoundi in Yaoundé.
The connection with homosexuality was that Atsafack often went in secret to see his partner, a doctor on duty at a university hospital in Yaounde. One day during his visit, there was a theft in the hospital and Atsafack was discovered in the attire of a doctor. Afraid of the consequences for his partner and to avoid being stigmatized for homosexuality, he did not report what actually happened.
He was sentenced to five years in prison, but Togué on April 11 arranged for him to be released after Atsafack paid 234,000 CFA francs (about US $470) in legal costs and fines. The reduced sentence was approved because Atsafack had already served more than two years in prison and also because Cameroon President Paul Biya had recently issued a decree reducing the sentences for some prisoners convicted of financial crimes.
Atsafack’s fines were paid in part by the Cameroonian human rights group Adefho (the Association in Defense of Homosexuals) and in part from the proceeds of a small business that Atsafack ran in prison.
The anti-AIDS, pro-human rights group Camfaids (the Cameroonian Foundation for AIDS) proposes a fund-raising effort to help him and other former LGBT prisoners, who need health care, shelter, clothing, food, and vocational training. Many of them have been abandoned by their families.