Reporters Without Borders (RSF) reiterates its call for the acquittal of Radio France Internationale’s Hausa-language correspondent, Ahmed Abba, after a hearing in his case before a Yaoundé military court two days ago that saw encouraging developments although a request for his release was rejected.
Prior to this hearing, RSF had said it would be crucial inasmuch as the court would either begin to hear the substance of the case against Abba, who has been detained since 30 July 2015, or would dismiss the case for lack of evidence and release him.
In the event, it was not quite as clear-cut. The court rejected the request for the withdrawal of all the charges against Abba, but it agreed to most of the other requests presented by his lawyers, Charles Tchoungang and Clément Nakong.
An expert report written on the basis of evidence that was never placed under seal was ruled inadmissible. The court declined to accept that Ben Bidjocka, the report’s author and main prosecution witness, was a “cyber-crime expert.” And after effectively acknowledging other procedural irregularities as well, the court finally requested that two new experts draft a new report.
“The fact that the military court agreed to most of the defence’s requests is an encouraging sign of progress in Ahmed Abba’s trial,” RSF editor-in-chief Virginie Dangles said. “The court has thereby accepted that the trial has been tainted by many procedural errors. Abba should therefore not be in prison and we call again for the withdrawal of all the charges against him.”
Abba is facing a possible death sentence on charges of “complicity in terrorist acts” and “failure to report terrorist acts” because he allegedly contacted members of the Islamist rebel group Boko Haram in the course of his reporting. The next hearing is scheduled for 7 December.