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Insult charge against detained writer dropped in Cameroon

Legal authorities in Cameroon have dropped a serious charge against the Stony Brook University professor detained last week because his writings allegedly criticized  and possibly threatened President Paul Biya. After several days of detention, without changing clothes, without seeing his family, his fate remains uncertain. Not only is his custody extended for 48 hours, but the charges against him have changed.

According to Patrice Nganang’s Lawyer, Emmanuel Simh, on TV5, “the offenses for which he is being detained are no longer the same. The charge for insulting President Paul Biya has been dropped, what is left is illegal immigration, death threats and forgery. This is a surprise to us because he was arrested initially for insulting the president.”

In another development, officials from the U.S. Embassy in Cameroon had visited him for the first time and reported that he was in good spirits, Nganang’s supporters said.

Nganang, 47, an outspoken cultural studies and comparative literature professor, was arrested while boarding a plane Wednesday in Cameroon. Harvey his friend said he was in touch with Nganang’s wife, Nyasha Bakare, who was waiting for her husband in Harare, Zimbabwe, last week when Nganang was arrested.

Nganang was taken to the General Delegation National Security detention center in the capital city, Yaoundé, a day after he published an essay on December 5 on the Jeune Afrique weekly news website. The essay suggested the crisis in Cameroon’s Anglophone regions might only be solved by a change in leadership. The government also alleges Nganang threatened Biya, the professor’s attorney said in a Facebook post.

Yesterday December 11, Cameroon’s Minister of Communication Issa Tchiroma tweeted “freedom of speech in Cameroon? Yes, insult? No.”

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