Authorities in the West African nation have reportedly released at least two employees of a human rights organization who were held for three days ... apparently in connection with the slaying of a prominent gay rights activist that has attracted international attention.
The two employees were reportedly released on July 30 without charge, reports the Associated Press. The two men worked with the slain activist Eric Ohena Lembembe at CAMFAIDS, a human rights organization based in the capital of Yaounde.
A law enforcement official in Yaounde, who insisted on anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the case, told The Associated Press that Lembembe's colleagues had been arrested "to give the impression that headway is being made in the case."
He said Lembembe's case had "really embarrassed" President Paul Biya's government. The killing drew statements of concern from France, Britain, the United States and the United Nations.
"There are fears that Cameroon may be further blacklisted by donors and denied foreign aid in the near future," the official said. "But the investigation was flawed from the start. The interrogators arrived at the scene of the murder several hours late, and all they did was collect testimonies from the late Lembembe's neighbours. I think they are onto the wrong lead."
AFP reports three of Lembembe's colleagues were detained.
Meanwhile: Another man in Cameroon "was sentenced to two years in prison for homosexual acts and committing an offence against a minor " two weeks ago, reports France 24. A third defendant was released after having "been held for almost two years." Attorney Alice Nkom—the West African nation's leading pro-gay attorney who has successfully freed more than a dozen imprisoned gay men—says the case is without merit.
Recent years have seen an increase in arrests and prosecutions under section 347a of Cameroon's penal code, which criminalizes same-sex sexual acts. The government is preparing to toughen its already harsh penalties against homosexuality by equating them with pedophilia.
Cameroon is one of at least 38 of Africa's 54 nations that currently have laws penalizing same-sex relations or even sexuality. Four nations—Mauritania, Nigeria, Somalia and Sudan—boast the death penalty for gays or same-sex activity. South Africa and Seychelles are the only African nations that protect LGBT rights. South Africa is also the only African nation to guarantee marriage equality.
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