'Prisoner of Conscience' Dies in Cameroon

Mike TuttlePolitics

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Roger Jean-Claude Mbede, a gay man who was jailed for sending a text message to another man saying "I'm very much in love with you" died on Friday, one month after his family removed him from the hospital where he was seeking treatment for a hernia.

His lawyer, Alice Nkom, said that his family said he was a curse "and that we should let him die."

Cameroon's Secretary of State for Defense arrested Mbede in 2011 under penal code Section 347a: "Whoever has sexual relations with a person of the same sex shall be punished with imprisonment from six months to five years and with a fine ranging from 20,000 Francs CFA to 200,000 Francs CFA."

Mbede was first detained on "suspicion of homosexuality" and then charged on March 9, 2011 with "homosexuality and attempted homosexuality." In April, he was found guilty and sentenced to three years in Kondengui Central Prison in Yaoundé, Cameroon.

His imprisonment was protested by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, saying "Jean-Claude Mbede is a prisoner of conscience held solely because of his perceived sexual orientation. All charges against him should be dropped and he should be released immediately."

A prisoner of conscience is defined as a person who has “been jailed because of their political, religious or other conscientiously-held beliefs, provided that they have neither used nor advocated violence.”

While in prison, Mbede developed a hernia and was granted provisional release in July 2012, after which he went into hiding. According to The Inquisitr, Mbede also had testicular cancer for which he had a surgery in the summer of 2013.

Then, one month after his family removed him from hospital care, he died. During that month he had received no additional care.

Lambert Lamba, a Cameroonian activist who works on behalf of sexual minorities, said, "His family said they were going to remove the homosexuality which is in him. I went to see him in his village. He could not stand up, he couldn't speak."

Nkom blames the Cameroon government.

“I accuse the state," she said. "If there had not been criminalisation of homosexuality, he would not have gone to prison and his life would not be over. His life was finished as soon as he went to prison.”

Neela Ghoshal, senior LGBT rights researcher, said, "Roger was a courageous man who became an accidental activist after he was arrested simply for expressing his love for another man."

According to Human Rights Watch, Cameroon brings more cases against suspected gays than any other African country.

Image via YouTube

Mike Tuttle

Google+ Writer for WebProNews.