Geneva assault: court condemns bodyguards of Cameroon president

SWI swissinfo.ch | An appeals court in Geneva has confirmed a conviction of six bodyguards of Cameroonian President Paul Biya, who were accused of manhandling a journalist in 2019 outside a hotel in Geneva.

The information about the latest verdict, reported by the Tribune de Genève newspaper, was confirmed to the Keystone-SDA agency by Robert Assaël, the lawyer for one of the convicted.

According to the Tribune de Genève, which saw the ruling, “five defendants were found guilty of duress and unlawful appropriation” and were given suspended fines, as was a sixth who was “only convicted of unlawful appropriation”.

The case has already been examined by the Federal Court, Switzerland’s highest legal body, before which the Cameroonian president’s bodyguards had argued their immunity.

The Supreme Court rejected this interpretation, ruling that the bodyguards had not acted for Paul Biya’s safety when they attacked a journalist working for Swiss public broadcaster, RTS, outside the Intercontinental Hotel in Geneva.

The journalist, Adrien Krause, was attacked on June 26, 2019, while covering a gathering of opponents of Paul Biya’s regime outside the luxury hotel where the Cameroonian president is a regular guest.

The bodyguards assaulted and immobilised the journalist, who was slightly injured, and took his personal belongings, including his telephone.

The Swiss foreign ministry immediately summoned the Cameroonian ambassador to Bern to explain “that such incidents are unacceptable and that freedom of the press is protected and must be respected.”.

+ Read more: Switzerland is 12th in 2023 press freedom ranking

The bodyguard defended by Mr Assaël continues to maintain that he acted in the exercise of his duties and for the safety of the Cameroonian president.

“The agents were on the alert, especially as a few weeks before, in Geneva, an unauthorised demonstration had turned into a riot, with two people injured, and two days before that, activists had ransacked the Cameroonian embassies in France and Germany. Freedom of the press is not in question,” the lawyer explained to Keystone-ATS.

“We will consider whether to take the case to the Federal Court,” he added.

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