A military court in Cameroon has sentenced a journalist to 10 years in prison for alleged links to militant group Boko Haram.
In a ruling that human rights groups called “outrageous”, a court in Cameroon’s capital Yaounde sentenced Ahmed Abba, a correspondent for Radio France Internationale (RFI), on Monday after he was convicted for “non-denunciation of terrorist acts” and “laundering the proceeds of terrorist acts.” The court also imposed a fine of almost 56 million Central African CFA francs ($93,000).
Cameroonian authorities arrested Abba in the country’s Far North region in July 2015. He was detained for several months incommunicado, during which he was tortured, and was not given access to a lawyer until four months after his arrest, according to RFI.
Boko Haram, an insurgent group that rose up against the Nigerian government in 2009, has spread its attacks to Cameroon, Chad and Niger. Cameroonian authorities have arrested more than 1,000 people on allegations of supporting Boko Haram in the past three years, according to Amnesty International.
“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, Amnesty International’s researcher in the Lake Chad region, which includes Cameroon.
The coordinator of the Committee to Protect Journalists’ Africa program, Angela Quintal, said in an emailed statement that the “outrageous sentence” showed “the lengths that Cameroon[‘s] authorities are willing to go to intimidate the media and thwart freedom of the press.”
Abba’s defense team told RFI they plan to appeal the sentence. Prosecutors had originally pushed for the death penalty against the journalist, but the defense managed to secure the minimum sentence for money laundering.
One of his lawyers, Charles Tchoungang, told RFI that the charge of laundering proceeds of terrorist acts could not be verified during the trial and that prosecutors had not specified what had been laundered—money, vehicles or arms.