Defence lawyers of Seseku Ayuk Tabe and nine others of the Ambazonia Governing Council have described the ruling passed on their clients on Tuesday, August 20, as judicial armed robbery.
The lawyers spoke to The Post shortly after the Yaounde Military Tribunal handed down life sentences to the Nera 10.
They are charged for: lack of a national identity card; an apology for acts of terrorism; secession; financing of acts of terrorism; complicity in acts of terrorism; revolution; insurrection; hostility against the fatherland; undermining the internal and external security of the State and diffusion of fake news.
Apart from describing the charges as trumped-up, and the ruling imposed from “above”, in violation of due legal process prescribed by national and international laws, they also said their clients believed the judge came to court with the ruling under their armpit.
“The judgment passed by the Military Tribunal shows how the justice system in Cameroon cannot guarantee freedom of expression and the independence of the judiciary.”
“The judgment is what can be termed judicial armed robbery.”
“They ambushed the law. The judgment was trumped-up and fabricated at the level high above and in violation of the national and international laws,” Barrister Christopher Ndong said.
To Barrister Nico Amungwa; “As far as the mood of our clients, Seseku Ayuk Tabe and others were, I must tell you, the guys were talking tough, and they looked tough after singing for seven hours, as soon as they were slammed.”
“They engaged the ‘Amba Anthem’ and assured us that they knew that the judge came into court with his judgment under his armpit and was bent to give them life jail.”
The lawyers of the defence team said: “We shall go ahead as the law prescribes, no matter the outcome of the proceedings. We have ten days to appeal the case, and we shall do that before the Court of Appeal of the Centre Region,” Barrister Ndong added.
“The Court of Appeal has good judges, but because we know the system and how justice will be denied from us, we will follow the course of justice.”
“We know where we shall land after exhausting all local avenues and what we shall do with the decisions of the Cameroonian courts at the International level,” he said further.
Earlier on, Barristers Ndong and Amungwa had told The Post in separate interviews that, the court session that slammed life sentences on their clients was dramatic as the hearing lasted from 1pm on Monday, August 19 to 5:38am on Tuesday, August 20.
After the court was constituted and the matter was called up, lawyers of the defence team informed the judge that he had been recused – a legal term for unqualified or has a potential conflict of interest.
The judged argued that he has never been saved, but the lawyers tendered evidence of a registered mail.
However, the judge insisted on continuing with the case even though according to the law, the judge was supposed to automatically suspend the hearing until the Court of Appeal listens to the matter.
At that moment, lawyers withdrew their appearances because they did not want to be accomplices to the charade of justice, clouded with travesties, justice that is a miscarriage.
Nevertheless, Ayuk Tabe and his comrades decided to obstruct the proceedings by singing the revolutionary songs and assuring the lawyers that they knew that the judge came into court with his judgment under his armpit.
Despite the disturbance, the judge was bent on giving them life jail as he moved on to allow the prosecutions to hear four witnesses who testified in court and later left.
Almost a ton of Dane guns used for funerals, machetes, axes, cutlasses and other farming tools were brought to the court, and it was the prosecution that played the role of the witness by tendering them in court.
At this time, the defence team was already out of court while military enforcement had been ordered around the court premises.
After listening to the prosecution, including the State lawyers who had argued that the State, as well as individuals, have suffered damages to the tune of FCFA 750 billion, the judgment was passed.
Seseku and Co were thus slammed life sentences with financial damages worth FCFA 250 billion to be paid to the State and FCFA 12.5 billion to be paid to the civil party.
For the sake of his age, The Post was told, Nfor Ngala Nfor was exempted from serving an additional five years jail term if he does not contribute his own share of that money, meanwhile, the rest of the nine clients will serve a further jail term of five years if they don’t pay that amount of money or if they don’t contribute each to make it up, to pay to the court.
The Post was later told that, apart from the voluminous documents that were tendered in court as evidence along with the projection of videos, the judge admitted the documents as evidence and ruled on the matter without even opening a page.
The Post equally gathered that the presiding judge did not give the defence lawyers the opportunity to cross-examine the witnesses who were men in uniform.
The ten persons slammed life jails are: Seseku Julius Ayuk Tabe, Dr Fedelis Che, Dr Egbe Ogock, Prof. Augustine Awasum, Barrister Shufai Blaise S. Berinyuy, Wilfred Tassang, Cornelius Kwanga, Nfor Ngala Nfor and Barrister Elias Eyambe Ebai.
They were arrested in Nigeria on January 5, 2018, and eventually extradited to Cameroon from where they have been in pre-trial detention till the August 20, 2019 ruling by the military tribunal.
In the face of several adjournments, arrested persons had all renounced that they are not Cameroonians, stating that they were Southern Cameroonians (Ambazonians).
Most of them posses Asylum documents with some already having refugee status in Nigeria and other countries.
How then is it possible to sentence asylum seekers and refugees in another country brought in and charged on domestic laws?