Cameroon’s attorney-general asks court not to release journalist
By asking Cameroon’s Special Criminal Court to reject a request for Amadou Vamoulké’s release at today's hearing in Yaoundé, the attorney-general could be endangering this eminent journalist’s health, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is calling for him to be granted access to the tests and treatment he needs. A decision is expected on 28 November.
Several members of RSF’s staff, British and Canadian embassy representatives and Cameroonian and foreign journalists attended today’s hearing, the 24th in Vamoulké’s trial on charges of misusing state funds when he ran the state-owned national radio and TV broadcaster, CRTV.
The hearing lasted only 12 minutes, the time it took for the court to hear the attorney-general argue that the request for his provisional release should be rejected because the gravity of the charges prevented him from benefitting from the Cameroonian criminal code’s “benevolent provisions.”
The request for Vamoulké’s release, submitted by his lawyers at the previous hearing, was accompanied by two medical certificates saying he needs tests and treatment that are not available in Cameroon. It also included a copy of the title to his home, because he has been kept behin bars on the grounds of “absence of a known residence.”
After the attorney-general presented his arguments, the court adjourned until 28 November to render its decision.
“It is stated in black and white in the medical reports that were submitted to the court that only this journalist’s provisional release will enable him to undergo appropriate medical treatment,” said Arnaud Froger, the head of RSF’s Africa desk. “Continuing to hold Amadou Vamoulké after he has already spent more than three years in preventive detention on charges never substantiated by the prosecution, although two neurologists confirm that he has a severe illness and although one of his co-defendants is not in detention, constitutes horrific persecution. There are no grounds, legal or moral, for keeping him in prison.”
When RSF visited Vamoulké in prison at the start of this week, he said that he has “pains in both feet that keep him awake at night” and that he has received “no additional treatment or tests” since September, when he was diagnosed with neuropathy.
During today’s hearing, neither the attorney-general nor the judges made any reference to the fact that he is being denied appropriate medical care, which violates the most basic legal principles.
On 12 November, RSF used an emergency procedure to refer his case to the UN special rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, enclosing copies of the two medical reports.
After a group of French parliamentarians raised the case in February, the French foreign ministry said “the prosecution has not produced evidence of the appropriateness of its case,” and promised to pay close attention to the conclusions of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, to which RSF first referred the case in January.
Vamoulké was CRTV’s director-general from 2005 to July 2016, when he was arrested on a charge of misusing several millions of euros in state funds, not for personal ends but with the sole aim of benefitting CRTV. No evidence to support this charge has been produced at any of the 24 trial hearings so far held.
Cameroon is ranked 131st out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.