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Cameroon orders release of main opposition leader Maurice Kamto

Marco Longari, AFP | Maurice Kamto, leader of the Cameroonian opposition party Movement for the Rebirth of Cameroon (MRC), addresses supporters during a campaign rally, September 30, 2018.

A Cameroonian military court Saturday ordered the release of main opposition leader Maurice Kamto, who has been imprisoned for nine months, after a series of conciliatory gestures by veteran ruler Paul Biya.

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The court said Kamto and 101 others summoned could be released "if they have not been detained for anything else".

Kamto's lawyer Sylvain Souop added: "We note the release of our clients who should not have been in prison. Maurice Kamto is free.

Biya -- who has ruled Cameroon with an iron fist for nearly 37 years -- on Friday announced he had ordered prosecutions to be dropped against "some" opposition leaders, including a number from the main Movement for the Rebirth of Cameroon (MRC) led by his jailed rival Kamto.

Kamto went on trial with 88 others in a military court in September on charges of insurrection, hostility to the motherland and rebellion -- crimes which could carry the death penalty.

Biya's shock announcement came on the closing day of crunch talks aimed at easing a bloody crisis in Cameroon's anglophone regions, which were shunned by the main separatist leaders.

The talks also ended with a proposal to give more autonomy to the English-speaking regions, where a two-year armed campaign for independence has been met with a brutal crackdown and cost nearly 3,000 lives, according to the International Crisis Group.

The two areas in western Cameroon -- the Northwest Region and Southwest Region -- are home to most of the country's anglophones, who account for about a fifth of a population that is overwhelmingly French-speaking.

(AFP)

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