Three Cameroonian men that were arrested in July have been sentenced to five years in prison for gay sex, their lawyer told reporters Wednesday.
According to reports the three men sentenced Tuesday face a 5 year jail term and a fine of 200,000 CFA francs (about $400, £260). This is said to be the heaviest sentence that could have been meted out under Cameroon’s current law.
A court in Yaounde has sentenced three Cameroonian men arrested in July to five years in prison for engaging in gay sex, their lawyer said Wednesday.
The Ekounou court sentenced the three on Tuesday to five years imprisonment and a fine, the heaviest sentence provided by Cameroonian law, which bans homosexuality, Michel Togue told AFP.
Two of the convicted men were present for the ruling but the third was sentenced in absentia, said Togue, who added he had appealed the decision.
“It’s a bad ruling because it is a blatant violation of the law,” the lawyer said, citing procedural technicalities when the guilty verdict was handed down.
He also accused the judge of peppering the hearing with homophobic innuendos.
The two men who were in court were denied bail in August. The third defendant was granted bail after their arrest in July and never appeared in court for the trial.
Ms Nkom, who runs Cameroon’s Association for the Defence of Homosexuals, told the BBC in August that there was no evidence against the men and they had been arrested because they looked feminine and their hair was “dressed like women”.
“This is a crime of fashion, not homosexuality,” she had said.
This is the latest in a series of convictions under Section 347a of the country’s penal code, a provision that criminalizes same-sex sexual relations. Indeed, the report goes on to note that a further 4 men were remanded in custody in August. They were charged with indecent behavior relating to same-sex sexual conduct. However, their lawyer has called the charges a set-up.
Readers may also remember the story of Jean-Claude Roger Mbede who was arrested earlier this year and received a prison sentence over text messages he sent a same-sex acquaintance that were later seen by the police. He must now serve three years incarceration for homosexuality and attempted homosexuality in Kondengui central prison where, Amnesty International has warned, he will face the constant threat of homophobic attacks. You can read more about his story here.
In 2010 human rights group Human Rights Watch issued a report showing evidence that the criminal justice system in Cameroon is engaging in numerous fundamental rights violations. The report demonstrated that authorities have engaged in arbitrary detentions without proper adherence to due process, and that authorities continue to sentence people under 347a without proper evidence. In short, the report said, LGBs were not being prosecuted for actual crimes but were effectively being targeted for their identities.
Concern deepens with the news that Cameroon is in fact preparing to strengthen its anti-gay laws.
Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and a number of other human rights groups have called on the Cameroonian government to release citizens detained or imprisoned for being gay and to repeal Section 347a.