Cameroon: Second Chance for Roger

Published: November 4, 2011

In April 28, Roger Jean Claude Mbede, a 29 year old student from Cameroon, was sentenced to three years in jail for homosexuality and attempted homosexuality. His appeal of that judgment will be heard this Monday, Nov 7.

According to a news release by three Cameroonian groups, Mdebe had met the man through a teacher. He had feelings for him and sent him a text message to tell him so. However, the man alerted the police and, when Mdebe came to meet him on March 2, he was arrested.

At the trial, Mbede was represented by Alice Nkom, 66, a noted lawyer and LGBT rights activist who has been defending LGBT clients for over 10 years despite threats of arrest and violence. In recognition of her activism, she was named the Grand Marshall of Montreal’s gay pride parade in August.

Mdebe was convicted even though there was no evidence of criminal conduct, according to a Human Rights Watch release on Aug. 17.

Alternatives-Cameroun, who visited Mbede in the infamous Kondengui Central Prison in Yaoundé this summer, said that he was suffering from lack of food and was in deplorable mental health. with an untreated condition affecting his left eye. He had to sleep on the floor of his cell, and had been abandoned by most of his family members, who regard him as a wizard.

Amnesty International says that "[p]rison conditions in Kondengui are harsh, with inmates suffering overcrowding, poor sanitation and inadequate food. Prison guards are poorly trained, ill-equipped and and their numbers inadequate for a large prison population." The group fears for Mbede’s safety while he is in prison, where he is at risk of homophobic attacks by inmates or prison authorities.

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