February 2, 2017

Another adjournment in jailed radio reporter’s trial

The latest hearing in Radio France Internationale reporter Ahmed Abba’s trial before a Yaoundé court lasted just three minutes today before the trial was adjourned yet again.

As a result, Abba has no chance of being released until the next hearing, which has been set for 8 February. He has been held for more than 18 months, ever since his arrest in northern Cameroon, where he is RFI’s Hausa-language correspondent.

Today’s hearing was quickly adjourned because, according to one of the court’s three military judges, the main judge, a civilian, was unable to attend because he was travelling.

Abba’s trial, which began several months after his arrest, has already been adjourned many times for a range of reasons including the prosecution’s inability to produce witnesses, the court’s refusal to recognize the competence of experts and failure to adhere to scheduling.

He is charged with failing to report terrorist activity to the authorities – a charge created by Cameroon’s 2014 terrorism law.

“All those who have had access to the prosecution case file say there is nothing in it,” said Cléa Kah-Sriber, the head of the Africa desk at Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

“Ahmed Abba’s detention for more than 18 months and the constant adjournments in his trial amount to psychological torture. We urge the authorities to release him at once and to finally examine the substance of the case against him, so that everyone can see that he is innocent.”

Expert reports on evidence seized at Abba’s home were due to have been examined at today’s hearing. One of his lawyers, Clément Nakong, said the reports were compiled in unilateral manner by the prosecution.

Abba was visibly in poor health when brought into court for today’s hearing, observers said. He reportedly spent yesterday in the infirmary of Yaoundé’s main prison after falling ill.

Two other journalists and a university professor have been facing similar charges since October 2014 but they have been released pending the outcome of their trial.

Cameroon is ranked 126th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2016 World Press Freedom Index.