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Cameroon police arrests and assaults a man for defending gays

A man is reported to have been arrested and brutally beaten up by Cameroon's police for preventing a homophobic attack
Joseph Messina is held in Yaoundé Central Prison after being arrested and beaten for preventing a homophobic attack

According to unverified reports Cameroon’s police arrested and brutally beat up a man for foiling a planned attack on a gay acquaintance, human rights activists say.

Joseph Messina, 25 year-old, was reportedly beaten, and is being held at Yaoundé Central Prison, awaiting a court hearing on 28 January.

Messina says he does not know the actual charges against him.

According to the reports, police have accused him of assault, being a defender of gays, and possibly also theft or fraud.

Human rights activists say Messina learned that his friend Kevin, has been carrying attacks against gay men and was planning to attack with another man on an acquaintance known as F. Belinga.

Messina alerted Belinga to Kevin’s plan and informed him of his full name.

Belinga decided to call Kevin who begun to suspect that Messina revealed his plans.

Kevin searched through Messina’s phone and found out that that he had indeed had been in contact with Belinga.

Kevin confronted Messina, but he denied having warned Belinga.

Kevin revealed his evidence that Messina had tipped off Belinga and vowed he would get revenge on Messina for having ruined his scheme.

Kevin and his friends from the police force laid a trap for Messina.

He was invited on 24 December to the Vieux Panier area, in Yaoundé.

Once he arrived, Messina was beaten by police and taken to the 8th District police station in the Madagascar quarter, accused of assault, of being a defender of gays, and possibly also of theft or fraud.

He was held in police custody for several days, during which he was beaten and suffered extensive injuries to his mouth, hands and feet.

Bloodied and under threat of torture, without knowing the charges against him, Messina said he was forced to sign investigatory documents.

He was then transferred to the Yaoundé Central Prison without appearing in court.

According to the reports he is still being held in the prison, without knowledge of the charges against him.

A court hearing for his case is scheduled this Monday (28 January).

Human rights activists cited several legal violations in the handling of the case, including Messina’s lack of legal representation and the lack of specific charges against him.

Earlier this month a man was stoned to death in Cameroon after being caught having gay sex.

Two months ago, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights spokesperson, Rupert Colville, blasted Cameroon for its mistreatment of LGBT people stating: ‘Laws that target people because of their sexual orientation are discriminatory … we strongly oppose them and we obviously try and convince governments that have such laws to change them.

‘Many governments have had these kinds of laws and have changed them over the years so we hope Cameroon will do [so] as well.’

Being LGBT carries huge risks in Cameroon; same-sex sexual acts are illegal under section 347 of the penal code with a penalty of five years imprisonment including a hefty fine. If the offender is under the age of 21 a more severe punishment is likely.

In 2010 four NGOs published a detailed report indicating that Cameroon is one of the most hostile countries in Africa for LGBT people. 

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