By Erin Royal Brokovitch
The author of this article is an activist for LGBT rights in Cameroon who writes under a pseudonym.
A 22-year-old Cameroonian man, identified here as A.H., was held in police custody from Nov. 17 to Nov. 20 after a Facebook correspondent entrapped him and denounced him to police as a homosexual.
The accuser, Serge, turned A.H. over to police when the two men met for the second time — an occasion that had seemed like a date but ended up more like a trap.
At 10 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 15, the two met briefly for the first time after corresponding for three months on Facebook. They agreed to meet again on Monday afternoon, Nov. 17. When they met, Serge asked A.H. for proof of his identity. They went together to the nearest police station, in the Ekounou district of Yaounde.
There, A.H. was accused of sexual harassment.
Like an “anti-gay steamroller,” the police leaped on the case. ‘They seized A.H.’s phone to look for proof of homosexuality. A police investigator and the local police captain looked into A .H.’s messages, seeking evidence that he is gay. The captain used A.H.’s directory to call his contacts, masquerading as a gay man, again seeking evidence against him.
The captain tried to force A.H. to admit that he is gay. Serge told A.H.’s family a few hours later that A.H. had admitted to police that he is gay, that he had been openly homosexual for four years and that his family already knew.
If true, this would pose a serious risk to his defense, from the perspective of the activist organization Humanity First Cameroon, which is following this case.
But after A.H. was placed in custody around 7 p.m., we spoke with him, and he told us that he had absolutely not confessed to anything. He denied all the accusations leveled at him by police.
When we mentioned the accused’s lawyer, Michel Togué, police officer Joseph Komono denied us permission to speak further with A.H.
A.H., a young man without a prior record, was held in the jail because police sensed that they had a big case on their hands, which is a common practice for police in Cameroon in dealing with alleged homosexuals.
On Tuesday, November 18, Humanity First and A.H.’s family obtained a promise from Serge that he would withdraw his complaint. But when the police investigator heard this, he pushed both parties aside and told them to “go away with these stories.”
The prosecution vowed to continue pressing charges even without Serge’s complaint. The investigator told A.H.’s mother, “Your son is a homosexual. This is very serious.”
Togué, the defense attorney, arrived at the police station around noon, and after some discussion with the police investigator, Togué believed that the matter would be quickly resolved. That turned out to be overly optimistic.
At first, Togué was not allowed to speak with A.H. He spoke with investigator Joseph Komono, requesting a meeting with his client. The investigator gave the impression this was a legitimate request, and directed Togué to the police officer responsible for supervising the holding cells to allow him to speak with his client.
The cell supervisor rejected Togué’s request and said of Komono, “He has no responsibility for the cells.”
Togué pointed out that the law gives him the right to meet with his client. The supervisor then revealed they had received orders from the police captain not to allow anyone to communicate with A.H.
Togué continued to argue that it is a detainee’s right to talk to his lawyer. Another police officer replied, “The captain has power over the law” and can impose his will in his own unit. Togué was again denied permission to meet his client.
A few minutes later, Serge, the complainant, arrived with a letter withdrawing his complaint. The investigating office, Joseph Komono tried to dissuade him from filing it. One argument that he used: The defense brought in a lawyer to “put pressure on the case.” He suggested that Serge might also become a suspect if he withdrew the complaint.
After speaking with A.H.’s family and with Humanity First, Serge filed the letter of withdrawal.
Cameroonian law condemns sexual acts between two persons of the same sex, but the police didn’t care.
Police requested the records of telephone conversations between Serge and A.H., seeking to demonstrate homosexual intent and harassment by A.H.
Togué said that the doggedness of the police captain suggests that he wants to make A.H.’s case into “the case of the century.”
As a result, A.H. remained in a cell until Nov. 20.
It’s a hard life for homosexuals in Cameroon!