Africa

Cameroon police detain accused gay man for 9 days

By Erin Royal Brokovitch

Michel Togué (Photo courtesy of Global Rights)

Michel Togué (Photo courtesy of Global Rights)

Hervé, a 25-year-old Cameroonian man facing homosexuality charges, was set free on bail on April 13 after nine days in police custody.

His release was accomplished through the diligent work of LGBTI rights activists at Humanity First Cameroon and, in particular, the lawyers Michel Togue and Jatan Ndongo.

But both Hervé and the leaders of Humanity First remain in danger.

Hervé had been arrested by police from the Emombo district on April 4 after being entrapped by Wilfried Ella, a member of the presidential guard at the Ekounou station in Yaoundé.

Ella, who had received text messages from Hervé, lured him to a rendezvous on the pretext that Ella’s girlfriend had seen Hervé’s messages and needed to hear him assure her that Ella was not homosexual.

Under pressure from the intensely anti-gay police commander Jean Esso, Hervé was pushed to say that he had made advances to Ella and to disclose the names of officials at Humanity First, who were Esso’s primary target.

Homophobic judge

Hervé is free but his tribulations are far from over.  

On his return home on April 13, his landlord told him he was being evicted.

The day after his release, he was called to appear at 7:30 a.m. at the trial court in Ekounou. At the hearing, his case was referred to May 12. During the hearing, he learned that the judge handling the case, Aurélie Tekam, is clearly homophobic. In open court, she did not hide her annoyance that Hervé had been released. She said he should have been kept in a cell.

Under Cameroonian law, homosexual activity is punishable by up to five years in prison.

Although the law as written only applies to people who are  caught in the act of same-sex relations, in practice it is often used to penalize people for being homosexual, even without evidence of any sexual activity.

The head of the human rights section of Humanity First has received death threats, which he described on Facebook.

The head of the human rights section of Humanity First has received death threats, which he described on Facebook.

 

Officers of Humanity First in danger

Leaders of Humanity First are in jeopardy because of their forceful advocacy for Hervé. On April 12, the Humanity First official in charge of the group’s human rights section described on Facebook the death threats that he has received from strangers during the period when he was working on the Hervé case.  Translated from the French, his Facebook update stated:

“Yesterday I received a call on a hidden number from I don’t know whom that threatened me with death. It comes at a time when there is a manhunt for me and my executive director [at Humanity First].  Nevertheless, I will continue my work. I will resolutely fight against those powerful people who naturally think they have the right to trample on the weak. That is my credo; I would even say it’s my reason for living.”

Officials at Humanity First are seeking support from their partners in improving their security.

The author of this article is a LGBTI rights activist in Cameroon who writes under a pseudonym.

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