The trial is being followed closely because Abba, held since 30 July 2015, is facing a possible death sentence on terrorism charges. Representatives of the European Commission, the French embassy and the Cameroonian Federation of Press Publishers attended the hearing.
Abba’s lawyers, Charles Tchoungang and Clément Nakong, raised many procedural objections at the hearing. They also objected to the belated inclusion of “computer expert” Ben Bidjocka as witness for the prosecution and to the fact their computer material seized at the time of Abba’s arrest was not placed under seal.
The military court adjourned the trial until 19 October when it will rule on the defence’s objections. This will be decisive. If the objections are rejected, the court will begin to hear the substance of the case against Abba. Alternatively, the case against him will be dismissed for lack of evidence.
“We are following this trial closely,” said Cléa Kahn-Sriber, the head of RSF’s Africa desk. “The next hearing will be crucial for Ahmed Abba’s acquittal. In the absence of any hard evidence, we call on the Cameroonian judicial authorities to drop all the charges against this journalist and release him without delay."
Charged in November 2015 with “complicity in terrorist acts” and “failure to report terrorist acts” in connection with the radical Islamist rebel group Boko Haram, Abba has always insisted on his innocence. He is facing the possibility of a death sentence under the 2014 terrorism law.
Cameroon is ranked 126th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2016 World Press Freedom Index.