Thursday, April 18, 2013

Cameroon: Cameroonian author prevented from writing in prison


The Writers in Prison Committee of PEN International sent a letter to the Administrator of Kondengui Prison, Cameroon, protesting the treatment of writer, historian and president of the National Association of Cameroonian Writers Dieudonné Enoh Meyomesse, who is currently serving a seven-year sentence there. PEN is disturbed by recent reports that Enoh Meyomesse is being prevented from writing and has effectively had three of his new works confiscated.

Médard Bomotoliga Koalang
Prison Administrator
Kondengui Prison
PO Box 100

17 April 2013

Re: Imprisoned Cameroonian writer Dieudonné Enoh Meyomesse

Dear Mr Koalang,

I am writing to you as Chair of the Writers in Prison Committee of PEN International, the global writers' association with 144 centres in more than 100 countries, with regards to the treatment of writer, historian and president of the National Association of Cameroonian Writers Dieudonné Enoh Meyomesse, who is currently serving a seven-year sentence in Kondengui prison. PEN is disturbed to hear of the conditions to which Mr Meyomesse is exposed in prison, most recently reports that he is being prevented from writing and has effectively had three of his new works confiscated.

According to PEN's information, Mr Meyomesse has been prevented from using the computer room in the prison where he writes his books since 5 April 2013. In addition, we understand that the computer on which he was working and saving his work while waiting to buy a compact disc to back it up has been declared out of use and removed from the room. Meyomesse had saved three of his recent texts on the computer in question, namely Poems of Hope, The Elite Against the People from 1884 to the Present Day and Cameroon, Desert of Human Rights. According to Mr Meyomesse, his requests to meet with the computer room manager to discuss the matter and to have his subscription fees refunded have come to nothing.

Mr Meyomesse believes that he may have been banned from using the computer room as punishment for writing Cameroon, Desert of Human Rights and for his support from PEN and Oxfam-Novib. In January 2013, Meyomesse was awarded a 2012 Oxfam Novib / PEN Freedom of Expression Award, and he has since been elected an Honorary Member of both the American and Austrian PEN Centres.

As you know, Mr Meyomesse was arrested at Yaoundé airport on 22 November 2011 on his return from a business trip to Singapore and was charged with armed robbery of gold and organising a coup. The arrest occurred after gendarmes raided Mr Meyomesse's house in his absence and without a search warrant. Mr Meyomesse was accused along with three other men who had accompanied him on the trip. All four were detained incommunicado for a month in appalling conditions, during which time they were denied access to a lawyer and threatened with being shot if they did not admit to having been involved with plotting to overthrow the government and an armed robbery. Interrogators reportedly also asked Mr Meyomesse for substantial bribes. Fearing for their lives, he and his three co-defendants signed statements that they were not allowed to read. In December 2012 Yaoundé military court found Mr Meyomesse and his three co-defendants guilty of armed robbery and illegal sale of gold, and sentenced the author to seven years in prison. The charges of organising a coup were dropped, while the alleged victims of the armed robbery were never presented or even named during the trial.

PEN International believes that it is likely that the charges against Mr Meyomesse are politically motivated and that his imprisonment is linked to his writings critical of the Cameroonian government and to his political activism. As well as an author, Mr Meyomesse is a political activist who aspired to be a candidate for the 9 October 2011 presidential election under the banner of the United National Front (Front National Uni, FNI) but was prevented from doing so, reportedly because the Supreme Court did not validate his candidacy. The three men arrested and convicted alongside Mr Meyomesse are personal friends who have been involved in his political campaigns.

Mr Meyomesse's is one of a number of cases highlighted in a report on free expression abuses in Cameroon submitted by PEN International, the Committee to Protect Journalists and Internet Sans Frontières to the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights as part of the Universal Periodic Review process (the report can be downloaded here in English or in French). The UN's review of Cameroon's human rights record is due on 1 May 2013.

PEN International protests in the strongest possible terms the continuing imprisonment of the writer Dieudonné Enoh Meyomesse and the confiscation of three of his new texts written while in prison. PEN respectfully calls for the texts to be returned to Mr Meyomesse and for him to be allowed to resume use of the prison's computer room. Ultimately,
PEN calls for Mr Meyomesse's conviction to be quashed and for his immediate and unconditional release.

Thank you for your attention in this matter. Please feel free to contact me at the above address or at tamsin.mitchell (@) should you require any further information.

Many thanks for your attention and assistance in this matter.

Yours sincerely,

Marian Botsford Fraser
Writers in Prison Committee
PEN International

President Paul Biya
Mr. Laurent Esso, Minister of Justice
Mr. Philémon Yang, Prime Minister