In August 2001, the publication director of the weekly Le Dementi, Georges Baongla, was arrested in Cameroon for the "publication of false news". His detention was linked with an article that implicated the minister of the economy and finances in an embezzlement case. Baongla was released, only to be rearrested in January this year and to discover, two days later, that he had been tried "in absentia" last October and sentenced to five years on corruption charges, allegedly for extorting ten million CFA francs from an official at the same ministry. The editorial board of Le Dementi claims that the charges are baseless and that Baongla has been persecuted for the paper's denunciation of financial malpractice in the ministry. Cameroon is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which guarantees the right to a fair and public hearing.
To appeal for Baongla's release and press for a review of the trial proceedings, write to:
Son Excellence Paul Biya
President de la Republique
Palais de l'Unite
1000 Yaounde, Cameroon.
Lisa Appignanesi, a novelist and broadcaster, is a member of PEN's Writers in Prison Committee