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Cameroon court upholds 3-year prison term for gay text message

Monday, December 17, 2012
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DOUALA, Cameroon — An appeals court in the African nation of Cameroon on Monday upheld a three-year sentence against a man found guilty of homosexual conduct for sending a text message to another that contained a photo of himself holding a sign that said, “I’m very much in love with you.”

Roger Jean-Claude Mbede, 32, who had been provisionally released on bail in July after serving a year and a half in prison, said he wasn’t sure whether he could withstand more jail time given the conditions he faced there.

Roger Jean-Claude Mbede

“I am going back to the dismal conditions that got me critically ill before I was temporarily released for medical reasons,” Mbede told the Associated Press.

“I am not sure I can put up with the anti-gay attacks and harassment I underwent at the hands of fellow inmates and prison authorities on account of my perceived and unproven sexual orientation. The justice system in this country is just so unfair,” he said.

Mbede’s provisional release earlier this year followed pressure from rights activists over his deteriorating health aggravated by malnutrition and repeated assaults.

Cameroon’s penal code calls for sentences ranging from six months to five years for people found guilty of “sexual relations with a person of the same sex.”

Activists called the ruling a major setback in a country seen as one of the the most repressive in Africa towards LGBT people. Last year, 14 people were prosecuted for homosexuality in Cameroon, and 12 were convicted, according to Justice Ministry records cited by Human Rights Watch.

Mbédé’s lawyer now has 10 days to file an appeal to Cameroon’s supreme court.

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