17 suspects in journalist's murder to stand trial in Cameroon

MAR 2, 2024 LISTEN

Seventeen people, including a top businessman and an ex-secret service chief will stand trial in Cameroon over the kidnapping and killing of popular journalist Martinez Zogo early last year, according to court papers seen by French media on Saturday.

The badly mutilated corpse of Arsene Salomon Mbani Zogo, known as "Martinez", was found a few days after his abduction in front of a police station outside the capital Yaounde on 17 January, 2023.

The 50-year-old radio reporter and former director of radio Amplitude FM hosted a popular daily programme, Embouteillage (Gridlock). An outspoken critic of alleged corruption and cronyism in Cameroon, he would often single out government officials by name.

The Yaoundé military court in Cameroon on Friday closed its judicial investigation, saying "sufficient charges against the indicted" justified ending the judicial enquiry and setting a trial. The date has yet to be confirmed.

The suspects include Jean-Pierre Amougou Belinga, an influential businessman and owner of Anecdote media group, who was arrested two weeks after Martinez's murder.

"He has been ordered to stand trial on a fabricated charge – complicity in torture," Belinga's lawyer Charles Tchoungang told France's AFP news agency.

Maxime Leopold Eko Eko, former head of Cameroon's DGRE counter-espionage agency, must also stand trial on charges of complicity in torture.

The DGRE's operations director, Justin Danwe, faces charges of complicity in murder.

International NGOs say the regime of President Paul Biya, 91, who has ruled with an iron fist for more than 41 years, routinely curtails opposition.

And many Cameroonians fear justice may never be done in a country ranked by Reporters Without Borders as 118th out of 180 for press freedom. 

 After both Belinga and Eko Eko were freed from detention without formal explanation in December, a new investigative judge – the third – was named to handle the case. 

Rights group Human Rights Watch says freedom of expression continues to be restricted in Cameroon, noting that three independent journalists were killed there last year. 

(with AFP)