A Cameroonian court on Thursday reduced the prison sentence for RFI journalist Ahmed Abba from 10 to two years on appeal. Abba was accused of terror-related charges in connection with his coverage of the Boko Haram Islamist group.
The Yaoundé appeals court on Thursday acquitted Abba – a reporter for the Hausa-language service at RFI, FRANCE 24’s sister radio station – of “laundering terrorism products” (blanchiment de produits du terrorisme).
However, judges upheld the lower court's ruling for his failure to "denounce" terrorism in connection with his coverage of attacks launched by Nigeria-based terrorist group Boko Haram.
In an interview with FRANCE 24 soon after the appeals court ruling, RFI editor in chief Christophe Boisbouvier said the decision was “a great relief for all of us”, adding: “We always believed he was innocent.”
Abba should be eligible for release after having already served 29 months behind bars, Boisbouvier said.
Abba was sentenced in April to 10 years in prison and ordered to pay 55.7 million Central African francs (almost €85,000).
He had been held in detention since his arrest in July 2015 in Maroua, in Cameroon’s Far North region, where Boko Haram militants have carried out murderous raids. He has strenuously denied the allegations and said he was tortured by Cameroonian intelligence services for months before he was transferred to the prison in the capital Yaoundé.
RFI said that Abba was held for four months before he was allowed to see a lawyer and that he had suffered abuse during this time in custody. His trial finally got under way in February 2016, although it opened in what RFI termed an atmosphere of “judicial chaos”.
“Radio France Internationale and its lawyers have unceasingly proclaimed Ahmed Abba’s innocence during these very long months,” RFI said in a statement on its website after the new ruling. “He was also supported in his fight by many journalists, both Cameroonians and foreigners, as well as organisations defending the journalistic profession and human rights groups.”
Yves Rocle, Africa director of RFI, and Cécile Mégie, director of information, were present at many of Abba’s hearings. “RFI management was present at each court appearance to proclaim Abba’s innocence and support him in this ordeal,” the station said.
Date created : 2017-12-21