RFI has called on Cameroon to allow lawyers to see journalist Ahmed Abba, the correspondent for its Hausa service who has been held in custody for a month without it being made clear what charges he is being held under. For the past two weeks Abba has been denied access to his lawyer.
Abba, who is now held in the capital, Yaoundé, was arrested in Marua in the far north of the country on 30 July.
He is reportedly being questioned in relation to the activities of the armed Islamist movement Boko Haram, which has renamed itself the Islamic State in West Africa, according to his lawyer, Charles Tchoungang.
“In Cameroon, police custody cannot exceed 28 days but we have just been informed that certain measures allow authorities to extend that period,” RFI says in a statement.
The company has asked the Cameroonian authorities to allow Tchoungang to have access to his client and to be informed of the reasons for his detention.
“At the moment he is being held incommunicado and is under investigation by the organisation responsible under the state of war Cameroon is experiencing today,” Tchoungang told RFI. “Let me remind you that Cameroon has been at war [with Boko Haram] for the past few months and this question is very sensitive because of the number of civilians murdered and soldiers killed on the frontline.”
It is understandable that the state adopts the necessary measures to acquire as much information as possible on a question of national security in this situation, Tchoungang says, pointing out that the United States and France have taken similar measures.
“All I am saying is, whatever he is suspected of, it is normal, in a country like Cameroon where the rule of law prevails, to make it possible for us to see him, so that we can be reassured of his wellbeing before he is presented to the legal authorities who will decide on the matter.”
RFI’s statement reminds the Cameroonian authorities of the principle of presumption of innocence and insists that “a very close examination of Ahmed Abba’s interventions in our programmes demonstrates the impartiality in his work”.