YAOUNDE, CAMEROON —
A court in Cameroon has freed Patrice Nganang, a prize-winning author and Cameroon-born U.S. citizen jailed for threatening the life of Cameroon president Paul Biya on social media.
Issa Tchiroma, Cameroon's Minister of Communication, says the court freed Patrice Nganang on Wednesday after Cameroonian President Paul Biya ordered an end to legal proceedings against Nganang.
"Mr. Nganang violated the laws of our nation, threatened to kill the head of state [Cameroon president], was detained just for investigations, but the head of state decided to stop the procedure and to let him go. They found two passports on him. One passport Cameroonian passport and American passport. The law of our nation does not accept dual nationality, that is the reason why they withdrew his Cameroonian passport and they let him go with American passport and he was expelled according to our own laws."
January trial has been scheduled
Nganang was arrested on December 6 and accused of threatening in a Facebook post to shoot Biya. He was facing a January 19 trial on charges that included seeking to justify a crime, contempt and assault threats.
On Wednesday, the author — who won the Grand Literacy Prize of Black Africa and teaches literature at New York's Stony Brook University — was taken from his cell to a Yaounde court where the state prosecutor asked for his release.
Tchiroma says his Cameroonian passport was seized and Patrice was expelled with his U.S. passport.
"I would like to advise him. He is an American. Let him threaten to kill the head of state [president] of America and he would see what will happen to him," he said.
Nganang is a fierce critic of President Biya. He was arrested in Douala, Cameroon's economic capital city, three weeks ago as he was boarding a flight to leave Cameroon.
'Jeune Afrique' article
Nganang wrote a critical article for the weekly news magazine Jeune Afrique on Cameroon's handling of the violent secessionist movement that has paralyzed school and businesses in the English-speaking areas of the country for more than a year. The crisis started when English speaking lawyers and teachers complained of marginalization from the French speaking majority in the bilingual country. It escalated to violent clashes between armed separatists and the military that have left dozens dead since October.
Several thousand people, including writers, had signed an online petition to pressure Biya to release the writer.