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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, August,2 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 31
Arrests made in Cameroon activist's murder - Officials try to pin killing of Eric Lembembe on his friends
Section One
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Arrests made in Cameroon activist's murder - Officials try to pin killing of Eric Lembembe on his friends

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Cameroon authorities announced on July 28 that they had arrested three people in connection with the murder of Gay activist Eric Lembembe.

The three, who were arrested July 27, were being held for 'questioning,' according to Agence France Presse. The suspects were 'former colleagues' of Lembembe, a lawyer said to be 'close to the case' told AFP.

On July 30, the Associated Press reported that only two men had been questioned, and that they were released 'without charge,' according to their lawyer, Michel Togue.

The two were identified as Michel Engama and Cedric Mbarga, and were said to be employees of the Cameroon AIDS Foundation, where Lembembe was executive director. AP added that they were among the last people to see Lembembe alive on July 12.

Lembembe's body was discovered in his home in the capital, Yaoundé, on July 15. The international organization Human Rights watch said his injuries showed he had been tortured to death.

FAMILY DENOUNCES POLICE
Lembembe was an outspoken Gay rights activist in a country where attacks on LGBT people are common and where same-sex relations are punishable by up to five years in prison.

A police officer said to be 'close to the probe' told AFP that the attack was not anti-Gay, however.

'We were at the scene of the murder,' the officer is quoted as saying. 'We have found a certain number of clues. There will be a rapid unfolding of events and people who believe it was a homophobic act risk being surprised.'

On the other hand, Alice Nkom, lawyer for the Lembembe family, denounced what she called a botched investigation and cast doubt on the decision to question the alleged suspects.

'Since we formulated reservations over how the investigation was conducted, they want to find any 'guilty ones,' Nkom said.

WIDESPREAD REPRESSION
NGOs working in Cameroon have regularly denounced the arrest and imprisonment of Gay people, as well as the threats targeting LGBT rights organizations.

A police official in Yaoundé told AP on condition of anonymity that Lembembe's colleagues had been arrested 'to give the impression that headway is being made in the case.'

He said Lembembe's case had 'really embarrassed' President Paul Biya's government. The killing drew statements of concern from France, Britain, the United States, and the United Nations.

'There are fears that Cameroon may be further blacklisted by donors and denied foreign aid in the near future,' the official said. 'But the investigation was flawed from the start. The interrogators arrived at the scene of the murder several hours late, and all they did was collect testimonies from the late Lembembe's neighbors. I think they are onto the wrong lead.'

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