By Nformi Sonde Kinsai
The team of lawyers defending Sisiku Julius Ayuk Tabe and other Southern Cameroonians on the ongoing socio-economic and political upheavals in the Southwest and Northwest Regions, have suspended court appearances over what they have termed “gross abuses of rights of clients suspects/accused and their counsel.”
The lawyers made the first move by walking out of a court session at the Yaounde military tribunal about 5.45pm on November 15. They were protesting against the poor treatment of their clients and the disregard of their rights as counsels of the detainees.
At a press conference in Yaounde on November 16, the Media and Communication Chair of the defence team, Barrister Nico Amungwa Tanyi, alongside Barrister Emmanuel Ndenkeh Pekum, told reporters that the move was triggered by the continuous absence of Hamlet Acheshit Ayuniseh and John Fonge before the military tribunal. They 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. As such, they have been absent from the court sessions of October 18 and November 15, whereas they have been in detention about five years, awaiting trial.
“The gendarmes who claimed to be judicial police officers abducted them with Tita Tebid alias Congressman who is in detention awaiting trial for about five years 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 in Yaounde with assurances that their lawyers were on standby for their arrival.
“Regrettably, when they were out of the prison, they were masked and their abductors drove off straight to the bunker of SCRJ at SED, where they were caged incommunicado without access to lawyers and family relatives,” Barristers Amungwa and Pekum narrated.
They continued that, when they visited on October 23, 2021, and succeeded to access and speak with their clients, the detainees confirmed that their bodies and eyes were swollen because they were dumped into a dark bunker where they squatted on water oozing from the floor.
“They squatted in the bunker till the night of October 23, 2021, when an evening protest by Southern Cameroonians/Ambazonian prisoners of war and conscience at the Yaounde Kondengui Central Prison shocked their abductors at SCRJ to displace them to the upper cell where they continue to sleep on bare floor till date.
“Their kidnappers, who took them without formally informing them of any new complaint against them, claimed that they took them just for a conversation about their communication with the Ambazonian Separatist fighter called ‘General’ No Pity of the marine forces of Ngoketunjia,” the lawyers stated.
They said, before the conversation began, their clients were not informed of their right to be assisted by counsel, interpreter and or remain silent. They disclosed that the battalion of investigators grilled their clients on the fact that they were giving No Pity money to buy arms and kill military officers. They said, at the end of the conversation, their clients were ordered to sign papers that they are communicating and financing General No Pity.
The lawyers also told a story of how one Benjamin Tantoh Tembang dispatched dresses and food along with a letter of greetings to his co-detainees (Tebid, Acheshit and Fonge) through one Christa Marie Nyuydzegha, wife of another co-detainee, Emmanuel Bame. As a result, Christa Marie was arrested and detained for a night, while Tantoh and Bame were brought from the prison to the SCRJ to justify the content of the letter which they did. After the justification, Tantoh and Bame were detained in SED for nine days before being returned to the Yaounde Kondengui Central Prison.
Based on the abuses, the lawyers asserted in a press statement: “Considering that the Military Tribunal Yaounde has held two sessions without being formally informed of the whereabouts of our clients and the reason for their absence in the tribunal; we have decided to temporarily suspend our appearance before the Military Tribunal Yaounde until the situation is redressed”.
They also raised other issues on some ‘tiny’ efforts made by some senior officers of SCRJ to treat them fairly, but their collaborators have disregarded such efforts in several ways: extorting their clients at SCRJ; some investigators have caused the disappearance of exhibits, including money, from their clients duly mentioned in their own proper police reports; failure by rightful authorities to pay attention to complaints filed by counsel even when the tribunal orders investigation against the perpetrators; and the muteness of the Procureur General of the Centre Regional Court of Appeal to formal protest memo addressed to him by the counsel over the gross abuses.
Based on the abuses, the defence lawyers reiterated their stance to suspend appearance before the Military Tribunal Yaounde as far as cases concerning Anglophone detainees are concerned, until the issues are resolved. The Post gathered that, to frustrate and intimidate the defence lawyers, court cases are being filed in the same military tribunal accusing them of terrorism.