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Cameroon jails 26 for one year over protest

The sentences for ‘illegal gathering and demonstration’ were issued on Monday by a court in Yaounde, says an attorney for opposition leader Maurice Kamto’s party.

FILE: Maurice Kamto, leader of the Cameroonian opposition party Movement for the Rebirth of Cameroon. Picture: AFP.

YAOUNDÉ - Twenty-six people who were arrested in Cameroon in January during protests called by opposition leader Maurice Kamto have been given one-year jail terms, one of their lawyers said on Wednesday.

The sentences for “illegal gathering and demonstration” were issued late on Monday by a court in the capital Yaounde, said Sylvain Souop, an attorney for Kamto’s party, the Movement for the Rebirth of Cameroon (MRC).

“We have filed an appeal,” he said. “(The decision) is scandalous - it goes against every rule of the law.”

“At least 12” of those sentenced are MRC members while the others had been planning to take part in a non-political demonstration scheduled to be held in Yaounde the same day, he said.

Eleven other detainees were released, he said.

Kamto and dozens of supporters were also arrested over the demonstration, which the MRC chief had called to protest over last October’s presidential elections.

Head of state Paul Biya, 86, was re-elected to a seventh straight term with 71% of the vote, followed by Kamto with 14.2%, according to official figures for the poll.

The arrests were criticised by the European Union and Amnesty International, while the United States urged Cameroon to release Kamto, saying that his detention was widely perceived as politically motivated.

Kamto was charged on 2 February with “rebellion” and “insurrection.”