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Cameroon court frees dissident writer, drops charges

Yaounde, Cameroon | AFP | A Cameroon court on Wednesday freed dissident author Patrice Nganang, accused of threatening President Paul Biya on social media, and ordered him to be expelled from the country, media reported.

The court in the capital Yaounde ordered an end to legal proceedings against Nganang, which began with his arrest on December 6, according to reports citing the writer’s lawyer.

The prize-winning author had been due to face trial on January 19 on charges earlier outlined by lawyer Emmanuel Simh as seeking to justify crime, contempt and assault threats.

He pleaded not guilty during the first hearing on December 15, when Simh denounced “a trial of a purely political nature (…) against someone with known and decisive positions against Mr Biya’s regime”.

On Wednesday morning, the author was taken to the courthouse where the state prosecutor simply asked for his release.

Members of Ngagang’s circle said that he was to be expelled from Cameroon as soon as administrative formalities were complete on Wednesday.

His Cameroonian passport was impounded when he was detained in the economic capital Douala on December 6 while planning to leave for Zimbabwe, but Ngagang also has a US passport.

Government spokesman Issa Tchiroma Bakary said the writer was accused of threatening to shoot Biya in a Facebook post.

The post was allegedly written after the writer’s return from a visit to the Anglophone west of the largely Francophone country, which sought to unite disparate territories after independence in 1960.

English-speaking provinces have witnessed an upsurge in protest and a tough security crackdown.

Educated in Cameroon and its onetime colonial power Germany, Ngagang is a winner of the Grand Literary Prize of Black Africa (in 2002 for “Temps de Chien”, or “Dog Days”). He teaches literature at Stony Brook University.

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