The first hearing took place on February 13 and proceedings adjourned to March 23 for cross examination of proofs and witnesses.
Some eight Cameroonians of English-speaking expression accused of perpetrating acts of terrorism following strikes called by Anglophone teachers and Common Law Lawyers have officially been notified of the crimes for which they are being incarcerated. The first hearing of the crowd-pulling cases began at the Military Tribunal in Yaounde on February 13, 2017.
The cases were separated into two. The first comprising what court sources say are alleged leaders. These include Mancho Bibixy alias BBC, Fontem Aforteka’a Neba and Nkongho Felix Agbor. Meanwhile, the second case concerned Penn Terence, Veranso Stephen Vejaimi, Tatah Elvis, Ndzenyuy Elvis and Che Saphyra Lum both accused as actors.
Hearing for the first case began with the President of the Military Tribunal, Abega Mbezoa epse Eko Eko, inviting an interpreter to take an oath to faithfully interpret from French to English and vice versa.
Reading of the names of the accused to ascertain their presence and their crimes followed suit by the Registrar but its interpretation into English for a better understanding by the accused met with heated objections. Defence lawyers opposed that the interpretations were not exact.
They said the alleged crimes ranging from complicity in acts of terrorism, hostility against the fatherland, insurrection, group rebellion, incitation of civil war and propagation of false information were not faithfully interpreted into English as pledged.
Although both the defence bench led by Barrister Bernard Muna and State Counsel (Commissaire du Gouvernement) led by Nzie Pierrot Narcisse agreed on the need to continue as such and look for a better interpreter during the next session, they however disagreed on the procedure. All the accused pleaded not quilty but statements from the government bench that investigations are still ongoing and that the final list of witnesses is still to be constituted irked the defence lawyers.
They said such proofs and witnesses were supposed to be present before hearing could begin and that their absence was in defiance of the law. Hearings were thus adjourned to March 23, 2017 for cross examination of the proofs.
The second case concerning Penn Terence, Veranso Stephen Vejaimi, Tatah Elvis, Ndzenyuy Elvis and Che Saphyra Lum accused of acts of terrorism, complicity on hostilities, insurgence, rebellion as well as financing acts of terrorism didn’t rage on for long.
Language problems that characterised the first case resurfaced in the second and the President of the court adjourned the matter to March 23, 2017 promising to do all to get a better interpreter.
Reacting to the cases, one of the defence lawyers, Barrister Sama Francis said, “Since they have pleaded not quilty, the burden of proof now lies on the prosecution to produce witnesses and evidences to proof their guilt. The presumption of innocence even works in their favour as they can stay quiet, for the prosecution to produce witnesses and proofs for us to do cross examination during the next session billed for March 23, 2017.”
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Sources at the Military Tribunal told Cameroon Tribune that the concerned being a super-scale magistrate could not be brought to the same venue to be judged alongside others at the same time.