By Nformi Sonde Kinsai
The team of lawyers defending Sisiku Julius Ayuk Tabe and other Anglophones arrested and detained across the country in connection with the ongoing socio-political crisis in the Southwest and Northwest Regions, have revealed a plot to replace them with pro-prosecution lawyers.
It should be recalled that the defence lawyers had suspended appearances at the Yaounde military court over what they term “gross abuses of rights of clients’ suspects/accused and their counsel” since November 15, 2021.
At a press conference in Yaounde on November 16, the Media and Communication Chairman of the defence team, Barrister Nico Amungwa Tanyi and Barrister Emmanuel Ndenkeh Pekum, had told reporters that the move was triggered by the continuous absence of Hamlet Acheshit Ayuniseh and John Fonge before the military tribunal.
They had said, since their clients were tricked out of the Yaounde Kondengui Central Prison to the underground cell (bunker) by gendarmes of the Service Central des Recherches Judiciares, SCRJ, without due process, they have been absent from the court sessions whereas they have been in detention awaiting trial for about five years.
“The gendarmes who claimed to be judicial police officers abducted them with Tita Tebid alias Congressman on October 13, 2021 in gross violation of section 122 (1) (b) and (2) of the Criminal Procedure Code of the Republic of Cameroon. They were deceived that they were being taken to the Military Tribunal Yaounde with assurances that their lawyers were on standby for their arrival,” the lawyers had disclosed.
Barrister Amungwa who spoke for the team of defence lawyers told The Post on January 19, 2022, that, even though they suspended appearances at the Yaounde military court, the interlocutory appeal case of Tita Tebid and 37 others at the appeal court of the Centre Region; the state prosecutor is still failing to produce him (Tita Tebid) in court. He said, for over 100 days gone since Hamlet Acheshit Ayuniseh, John Fonge and Tita Tebid were tricked out of the prison, the defence team is lost as to whether the trio has been formally transferred from the Kondengui Central Prison to SCRJ detention facility.
He rhetorically questioned whether the State of Cameroon would be able to render justice to Cameroonians languishing in detention centres within the context of the raging crisis in the Northwest and Southwest Regions, given the current pace with which the case is being handled. “The state prosecutor is the guarantor of the rights of citizens in his area of jurisdiction. But at this pace and from our observations, the state prosecutor is seemingly a major clog in the wheel of justice. We are very worried about this very unfortunate situation.
“The latest report we have had is that there are frantic efforts being made to replace the defence team of lawyers of detained Anglophones with other lawyers but the detainees who are our clients have vehemently refused to be part of such a move. They reportedly argued that they have the right to engage the lawyers they want and thus rejected those being proposed by government to take over from the defence team that suspended their appearances at the Yaounde military court. Our position is that we must be clearly edified on why our clients were tricked, against the provisions of the law, out of the Yaounde Central Prison to the underground cell at SCRJ,” Barrister Amungwa stated.
SCRJ Detention Centre As Yaounde VI Secondary Prison
One of the startling revelations made by the lawyer was the fact that the detention centre at the SCRJ was upgraded to the Prison Secondaire du Yaoundé 6ème (Secondary Prison of Yaounde 6). He expressed worries why the facility is being guarded by the gendarmes and not the security officers of the penitentiary administration. He said the facility also receives people arrested and directly takes them there without any formal custody order signed by the state counsel or the examining magistrate.
Barrister Amungwa recalled that Sisiku Julius Ayuk Tabe and nine others arrested in Nigeria were brought to the SCRJ where they spent almost a year and wondered who signed their custody considering that the detention facility is the Prison Secondaire du Yaoundé 6ème. He said, under normal circumstances, a prison is not a cell but rather where people tried and sentenced serve their jail terms.
He argued that a person cannot be arrested and sent directly to prison without due investigation and court procedure. He added that, even in cases of flagrant delicto, someone arrested must go through court procedure before being placed either under judicial or police custody. He talked of instances where people are arrested and taken to the SCRJ cell which is the Secondary Prison of Yaounde VI and police reports say the state counsel or the examining magistrate are informed and not that the two officials signed ordering for the formal custody of the suspects. He said, as such, a judicial police officer can arrest and keep someone at such a centre for as long as nine to ten months before taking him/her to the state counsel who can order for formal custody irrespective of when the suspect was arrested.
Also arguing that those arrested and taken directly to the SCRJ detention centre are victims of gross violation of human rights, Amungwa said those unlawfully keeping people arrested in the Northwest and Southwest Regions should abandon the war path and rather meet them to settle the matter in the court.
On when the SCRJ detention centre was raised to Prison Secondaire du Yaoundé 6ème, the lawyer said it was far back when Titus Edzoa was tried and slammed a jail term. He said Edzoa was serving the jail term at the detention facility instead of the prison and, in the wake of public outcry against such a decision; the facility was upgraded to Prison Secondaire du Yaoundé 6ème.