Biya Frees Titus Edzoa, Thierry Atangana

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Titus Edzoa after his release from prison - Monday

Titus Edzoa after his release from prison – Monday

President Biya has exceptionally ‘nodded his Presidential head’ and Prof. Titus Edzoa and Franco-Cameroonian Michel Thierry Atangana, could be very likely walking out the gates of Kondengui Prison as free people in the days ahead.

Prof. Edzoa, former Secretary General at the Presidency, and former Personal Physician to the Head of State and Atangana, are most likely to be released from prison in the coming days, following decree No 2014/058 of February 18, 2014  which Biya signed as a ‘gift’ to some prisoners on the eve of the 50th anniversary celebration of the Reunification of Cameroon in Buea.

According to article 1 (5) of the decree, total remission will be made to persons initially sentenced to a term of imprisonment for misappropriation of public funds, and whose stay in prison for the same offence is above 10 years. Edzoa and Atangana fit squarely in this category.

The release of the duo serving 20-year jail terms for embezzling public funds is one of the provisions of a Presidential clemency published on February 18. According to some legal experts, the Presidential clemency is unprecedented, given that it provides for reduction of the prison terms of some prisoners sentenced on account of embezzlement of public funds.

Apart from Edzoa and Atangana, it is likely that some other high profile prisoners at the Kondengui Prison, New Bell in Douala and other detention centres may see the light of freedom again. Among other stipulations, the Presidential clemency provides that people, who are serving a prison term for new embezzlement offences that were brought against them when they were already in prison for the same crimes, will be released.

This is the main point of article 1 (5) of the Presidential decree that Edzoa and Atangana are benefiting from. It is worth noting that after serving a 15-year jail term for embezzling public funds, the duo got another 20-years each in the slammer for the same offences. It was for this reason that the second sentence of Edzoa and Atangana attracted a lot of criticisms.

Many pressure groups in France and Cameroon took exception to claims that the Franco-Cameroonian citizen was jailed for embezzling public funds. The Chairman of the Committee that was fighting for the release of Atangana said the man was a political prisoner. He swore that President Biya will not have peace whenever he traveled to Europe. Some observers now hold that the Presidential clemency on Edzoa and Atangana is as a result of international pressure.

Other Provisions

Article 1 of the February 18 decree to commute and remit sentences provides that only “persons whose sentences have been final as at the date of the signature of the decree shall benefit from remissions.” In this perspective, persons who were sentenced to death initially will now have life sentence. It provides reduction to 20 years in favour of persons initially sentenced to death and whose sentence has already been commuted to life imprisonment. Reduction to 20 years will benefit persons initially sentenced to life imprisonment that has not yet been commuted.

The decree also stipulates that persons initially sentenced to life imprisonment for mismanagement of public funds and whose stay in prison is equal to or above 10 years will benefit from a 25 years reduction. Remission of 10 years imprisonment will be done in favour of people initially sentenced to a term of imprisonment; for mismanagement of public funds and whose stay in prison is below 10 years.

Persons initially sentenced to death and whose sentence has already been commuted to a term of imprisonment will benefit a 3-year remission. A three –year remission will also be in favour of persons initially sentenced to life imprisonment that has already been commuted to a term of imprisonment. The text partly reads as follows: “remission of three years in favour of persons initially sentenced to life imprisonment that has already been commuted to term of imprisonment equal to or above 10 years.”

The decree recommends that persons initially sentenced to a term of imprisonment below 10 years or above will benefit 15 months reduction. The remission of 12 months will be in favour of persons initially sentenced to a term of imprisonment below or equal to three years but above one year.

Prisoners initially sentenced to a term of imprisonment below or equal to three years but above one year will benefit eight months reduction. Six months will be reduced in favour of persons initially sentenced to terms of imprisonment below or equal to one year.

Article 2 of the decree reads as follows: “for the application of the remission provided herein above, minors within the meaning of criminal law who have been sentenced shall in addition benefit from one third of the applicable remission.” According to article 3, the commutations take effect from the date of the signature of the decree.

Contradictions

Despite the fact that Edzoa and Atangana, who were sentenced for embezzlement of public funds, benefited from the Presidential clemency, the decree states that people sentenced for corruption-related offences will not benefit from it. Article 4 states that provisions of article 1 shall not apply to: “fugitives at the date of signature of this decree; recidivist offenders; and persons imprisoned and sentenced for an offence committed while in detention.”

It also applies to “persons sentenced for capital murder; corruption, indulgence (undue demand), favour, procuring favoritism, influence, interest in grant; aggravated theft punishable with death; undue influence and undue demand; counterfeit note and coin; customs or tax fraud; fraud in official and other examinations; fraudulent export of currency; illegal possession and trafficking of toxic wastes; illegal possession and trafficking of narcotics; breaches against legislation on arms; breaches against forestry legislation; and torture.”

By Yerima Kini Nsom
 

CameroonPostline.com

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