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2 men found guilty under Cameroon’s anti-gay law, latest in string of convictions

in CAMEROON, 25/07/2013

“It’s shameful that two more people have been convicted of consensual same-sex conduct in Cameroon,” just after the killing of Lembembe, Neela Ghoshal, senior Human Rights Watch researcher for lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender, said. “The government continues to send the message that LGBTI people are less than human.”

DAKAR, Senegal — A court in Cameroon found two men guilty under the country’s harsh law banning gay sex on Tuesday, a lawyer said, continuing a string of recent convictions that has drawn international condemnation.

Michel Togue said judges in Yaounde, the capital, sentenced 48-year-old Joseph Omgbwa to two years in prison and 19-year-old Nicolas Ntamack to one year. A third suspect, Seraphin Ntsama, was acquitted.

The convictions came less than two weeks after a prominent Cameroonian gay rights activist, Eric Ohena Lembembe, was tortured and killed in an attack his friends suspect was related to his activism.

Togue said he plans to appeal the convictions, which he described as baseless.

“You know, this judgment makes me very sad and angry because we didn’t have evidence to convict those guys of being homosexual,” Togue said.

He said the verdict would further devastate a community already shaken by the death of Lembembe, the most prominent African gay rights activist to be killed since 2011. “Ever since this man was murdered the community is really frightened, and I think they didn’t need this kind of verdict today,” Togue said.

Homosexuality is punishable by up to five years in prison in Cameroon, and officials have zealously pursued prosecutions under the law dating back to 2005, according to local and international human rights groups.

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