Last week we posted the latest unfortunate news from the central African nation of Cameroon: Two young men were arrested on charges of homosexuality.
There are more developments: Three men were originally arrested, but the oldest suspect was released. The youth were detained because they "appeared feminine." The men were tortured, charged under laws criminalizing homosexuality and appeared in court, reports Human Rights Watch.
Jonas, 19, and Franky, 20, were in the company of an older man on the night of July 25 and were returning from a bar when they were stopped by police officers [in] Yaoundé. According to the two detainees, the police at first assumed that Jonas and Franky were women because of their feminine appearance. However, upon checking their identification documents, in which Jonas and Franky were identified as male, the police took all three to the offices of the Regional Directorate of the Judicial Police of the first subdivision of Yaoundé, where they were held until August 1.
Cameroonian law declares that a detainee may be held for only up to 48 hours before being brought before a magistrate or judge. However, all three individuals were held for seven days before being charged. During this time, Jonas and Franky refused to make a statement to the police in the absence of legal representation. Members of the Association to Defend Homosexuals, who are representing them, informed Human Rights Watch that police personnel tortured and harassed them in custody. The third man was not harassed or beaten.
Jonas told ADEFHO that police slapped him and beat him on the soles of his feet to make him confess to being homosexual – both Jonas and Franky confessed. They also intimated that they did not receive food while in custody.
On August 1, the three individuals were taken to the Attorney of the Republic at the Court of First Instance, who issued warrants against Jonas and Franky, whose trial is scheduled to begin on August 18; the older man was released. Jonas and Franky remain in custody at the Central Prison in Kondengui, Yaoundé, awaiting trial.
Cameroon boasts one of Africa's more repressive anti-LGBT regimes. The nation has become infamous for routinely subjecting men accused of sodomy to legal ordeals that continue for years. Arrests and prosecutions under Cameroon's Section 347a have increased in recent months. Cameroonian LGBT activists reported the March arrest of three men for homosexuality.
Noted human rights lawyer Alice Nkom founded the Association to Defend Homosexuals (ADEFHO). In January, Nkom was threatened with arrest after ADEHO successfully applied for a €300,000 [USD $390,000] grant from the European Union to combat homophobia in Cameroon.
Nkom captured international attention in 2005 and 2006 when she successfully freed the Yaoundé 11, who were arrested in a June 2005 raid on a gay bar and served a year behind bars. In 2007 she discovered an imprisoned gay man who was held for two years without trial. He was later released.
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