On 27 April 2015, the award-winning writer and activist Enoh Meyomesse was finally freed from Kondengui Prison in Yaoundé, Cameroon, after almost three and a half years in prison.
‘It’s funny to see the prison from outside’ said Meyomesse shortly after his release to writer Patrice Nganang who, along with friend Bergeline Domou, spearheaded the campaign for his release since his arrest back in November 2011. ‘They practically threw me outside. It was quite forceful. But if it is kicking me outside to freedom then there’s nothing to complain about. I don’t have the words to thank you for your unswerving support over all these years.’
PEN first received news that Meyomesse was to be freed on 16 April 2015. Eleven days later, on the morning of his release, he issued an open letter to President Biya and the Ministry of Justice urging them to intervene in his case.
‘President of the Republic – once again I come to humbly request your intervention to ensure that I can finally regain my freedom. Forty months in Kondengui [Prison], you cannot know what it does to a human being. Your life stops.’
More than three years had passed since Enoh Meyomesse was arrested at Nsimalen International Airport in Yaoundé and charged with attempting to organise a coup and armed robbery. Within a matter of months, the coup charges against him were dropped, and by June 2012 no charges remained. Nevertheless, a judge ordered a six-month extension of his detention in order to enable the prosecutor to search for evidence. In December 2012 he was found guilty of armed robbery and illegal sale of gold and sentenced to seven years in prison, charges that were widely believed to be politically motivated.
It had also been two years since Meyomesse’s lawyers first succeeded in having his case referred to a civil court for appeal in April 2013. During this time more than 20 appeal hearings were postponed, apparently due to legal technicalities.
Meyomesse’s appeal hearing finally began on 30 March 2015. According to Meyomesse and his lawyer, on 16 April, the Appeals Court (Cour d’Appel du Centre) acquitted him of the charge of illegal sale of gold but found him guilty of handling stolen goods (recel aggravé), for which he was sentenced to 40 months in prison. Since he had already served more than this term, the court ordered his release. He was finally freed 11 days later, on 27 April.
Meyomesse has now lodged an appeal with the Supreme Court seeking his complete acquittal. He is said to have aged considerably in prison and is in need of medical assistance.
‘Enoh Meyomesse has been a major focus for English PEN’s Writers at Risk Programme and we are overjoyed that he has finally been released from prison,’ said Cat Lucas, English PEN’s Writers at Risk Programme Manager. ‘PEN and our supporters stood with Enoh throughout his detention – lobbying the Cameroonian authorities; sending books and messages of support; providing writing materials when he was prevented from accessing the computer rooms; securing and delivering relief grants and other essential funds; staying in close contact with his friends and supporters on the ground; urging British representatives in Cameroon – successfully – to attend trial hearings; and by translating, crowd-sourcing translations, and publishing his extraordinary writing.
‘In turn, Enoh added his voice to our Books for Prisoners Campaign, which called for UK prisoners to be allowed to receive books from loved ones in the post, writing a piece in support of the campaign directly from his prison cell. We will continue to do what we can to provide him with the support required as he rebuilds his life over the coming months.’
‘We’re thrilled that Enoh Meyomesse has been finally released. PEN International and its members around the world have campaigned continuously for him since his arrest in 2011, via letter-writing, international advocacy, medical and legal assistance and messages of solidarity,’ said Tamsin Mitchell, Africa Researcher and Campaigner at PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee. ‘We will continue to support Enoh to recover his health, which has suffered as a result of more than three years’ imprisonment in poor conditions, and in his fight to clear his name. We urge the Cameroonian authorities to expedite his Supreme Court Appeal and to ensure that he remains free to write.’
Enoh Meyomesse was a featured case in PEN’s annual Day of the Imprisoned Writer in 2014, for which renowned author Alain Mabanckou wrote a moving open letter to Enoh to highlight his plight.
Thank you so much to everyone that has taken action for Enoh Meyomesse over the last few years. We are hugely grateful for your support. If you would like to send a message to Enoh, please do so here or via firstname.lastname@example.org