Cameroon’s appeal court has upheld a 10-year sentence against three students who shared a joke text about Boko Haram.
The three students; Fomusoh Ivo, Afuh Nivelle Nfor and Azah Levis Gob, had shared a text on the difficulty of finding a good job without being highly qualified, -stating that even the armed group Boko Haram won’t recruit you without good exam results.
Specifically, Fomusoh Ivo in December 2014 reportedly received a text message from a friend, saying: “Boko Haram recruits young people from 14 years old and above. Conditions for recruitment: 4 subjects at GCE, including religion”. His friend’s message was intended to reveal that even the armed group Boko Haram won’t recruit you without good performance from school. Ivo forwarded the message to Afuh Nivelle Nfor, who sent it to Azah Levis Gob. One of their teachers saw the text, having confiscated the phone, and showed it to the police. Ivo and his friends were all arrested. They were transferred to the Prison in Yaoundé on 14 January 2015 and kept with their legs chained at the ankles.
They were charged under the Cameroonian Penal Code on 3 March 2015 and found guilty of ‘non-denunciation of terrorism related information’ on 2 November 2016. The trio were convicted by a military court on 2 November 2016 and have been in jail since then.
According to Amnesty International, more than 300,000 letters and petitions from people around the world have been sent to Cameroonian President Paul Biya calling on him to release them.
Alioune Tine, Amnesty International’s West and Central Africa Director, said; “These students have done nothing more than share a private joke, but their conviction and sentence could see them spend a decade behind bars and destroy their future prospects. They continue to languish in prison facing an unclear fate,” said “We join more than 310,000 people across the world in calling on the authorities in Cameroon to release these students, allow them to re-join their families, and realise their dream of continuing their studies and finding a job.”
It is reported that even celebrities such as Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group, and Patrick Mboma, a former Cameroonian football striker and Fomusoh Ivo’s favourite footballer, sent letters to the authorities, solidarity messages in prison to Ivo and his two friends and tweeted about the case.
“Ivo and his friends should be released immediately and unconditionally. Convictions for trumped up charges such as these in the name of national security is no way to keep a country safe,” Alioune Tine said.