Cameroonian military tribunal on Monday sentenced a journalist to 10 years in prison on terrorism charges, including for failing to report acts of terrorism to authorities.
The court had been told that evidence was found in Ahmed Abba’s computer showing he had been in contact with Boko Haram Islamist militants and that they had communicated information to him about future attacks.
Mr. Abba, a Cameroonian journalist for Radio France International, had been convicted for “non-denunciation of terrorism” and “laundering of the proceeds of terrorist acts” and could have been sentenced to death under a controversial anti-terrorism law of the country.
Judge Edou Mewoutou also ordered him to pay a fine of 55 million CFA Francs ($90,000) and barred him from speaking to the media about the trial.
Mr. Abba, who spent over 633 days in detention, had denied having any links with the Nigeria-based Boko Haram group.
His lawyer said he would appeal the conviction and sentence that has attracted heavy criticism from rights groups.
London-based rights group, Amnesty International, said Mr. Abba’s “unfair trial” was a travesty of justice.
“Ahmed Abba’s conviction, after torture and an unfair trial, is clear evidence that Cameroon’s military courts are not competent to try civilians and should not have jurisdiction in these cases,” said Ilaria Allegrozzi, the Amnesty International’s Lake Chad researcher.
The Committee to Protect Journalists, CPJ, Africa programme coordinator, Angela Quintal, said the “outrageous sentence” signalled the lengths that Cameroon authorities were willing to go to intimidate the media and thwart freedom of the press.
“Ahmed Abba should never have been detained, prosecuted, and convicted for his journalism–let alone ordered to spend a decade behind bars,” said Ms. Quintal.
Abba, who reported for RFI’s Hausa language service from Cameroon’s Boko Haram-prone far north, was arrested in July 2015 on suspicion of having collaborated with the jihadist group and withholding information in connection with his coverage of insurgencies by the group from Cameroonian authorities.
Three other local journalists were standing trial in the same court over similar charges.