Central African Republic: Newspaper editor sentenced in unfair trial

*** UPDATE: English PEN welcomes the release of newspaper editor Faustin Bambou who was sentenced in January following an unfair trial. On 23 February 2008, having spent six weeks in prison on defamation charges, Bambou was released following a pardon by President François Bozizé. The presidential decree granted Bambou ‘a complete remission of sentence’. Nevertheless, we continue to urge the authorities to quash Bambou’s conviction, and to ensure that journalists are not imprisoned for exercising their right to freedom of expression. ***

English PEN is deeply concerned about the sentencing of Faustin Bambou, editor of the privately-owned weekly Les Collines de l’Oubangui, on 28 January 2008. Bambou was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment and ordered to pay a symbolic fine of one CFA Franc (a Central African currency; one CFA Franc is equivalent to 0.2 US cents) by the High Court. PEN believes that Bambou may imprisoned solely for exercising his right to freedom of speech and is seriously concerned that he may not have received a fair trial.

Bambou was arrested by gendarmes on 11 January and detained at the Gendarmerie’s Research and Investigation Department before being transferred to Ngaragba prison in the capital, Bangui. He was charged with libel, insult and incitement to revolt, in relation to an article published on 21 December 2007 in his newspaper, Les Collines de l’Oubangui, which alleges that two Government ministers had embezzled funds that could have been used to pay Government employees’ salary arrears. 

When his trial began on 21 January, Bambou’s defence team withdrew from the case in protest at the judge’s refusal to accept their submissions that the prosecution were abusing legal procedure. The team had argued that Bambou should have been charged under the provisions of the 2004 press law (which protects journalists from being imprisoned for activities related to their work) and not under ordinary criminal law.

The trial proceeded without Faustin Bambou being given an opportunity to appoint alternative legal counsel. Bambou has appealed against his conviction and sentence but it is not known when the appeal will be heard.

Please send appeals (if possible, in French):

– Calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Faustin Bambou, and expressing concern that he is a prisoner of conscience detained solely for his peaceful and legitimate activities as a journalist;
– Requesting the authorities to ensure that Faustin Bambou is allowed to appeal against his conviction and sentence, and that he is allowed adequate opportunity and facilities to obtain legal counsel to prepare his appeal;
– Urging the authorities to ensure that journalists are not imprisoned for exercising the right to freedom of expression and to adhere to the 2004 CAR law governing press freedom.

Appeals to:

Monsieur Thierry Maleyombo
Ministre de la Justice, Garde des sceaux
Ministère de la Justice
BP 732
Bangui, République centrafricaine
Fax: 236 21 611579/ 613198
(Salutation: Monsieur le Ministre)

Monsieur Cyriaque Gonda.                                                                   
Ministre de la Communication, chargé du Dialogue national                       
Ministère de la Communication
BP 1290
Bangui, République centrafricaine
Fax: 236 21 615985
(Salutation: Monsieur le Ministre)

Monsieur Firmin Feindiro               
Procureur de la République               
Parquet de Bangui
BP 2891
Bangui, République centrafricaine
Fax : 236 21 614478
(Salutation: Monsieur le Procureur de la République)

Copies to:


Monsieur Dieudonné Kombo Yay       
Ministre des Affaires étrangères, de l’Intégration Régionale et de la Francophonie 
Ministère des Affaires étrangères
BP 930
Bangui, République centrafricaine
Fax: 236 21 613965
(Salutation: Monsieur le Ministre)

Originally posted with the url: www.englishpen.org/writersinprison/bulletins/centralafricanrepublicnewspapereditorsentencedinunfairtrial/

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