YAOUNDE (Reuters) - Ten Cameroonian separatist leaders extradited from Nigeria earlier this year will face trial next month on terrorism charges that could lead to the death penalty, one of their lawyers said after a court hearing on Tuesday.
The accused include Julius Ayuk Tabe, the leader of an Anglophone separatist movement in western Cameroon fighting to break away from the Francophone-dominated central government.
Hundreds of people, including civilians, separatist fighters and Cameroonian security agents, have been killed in the past year’s violence, which has emerged as the most serious security threat to President Paul Biya, in power for 36 years.
“Ten charges have been brought against them, including terrorism, advocating terrorism, secession, civil war and revolution,” lawyer Christopher Ndong told Reuters after the charges were read out at the capital Yaounde’s military court.
The trial is scheduled to begin on Dec. 6, Ndong added.
Tabe and his co-defendants were among 47 Anglophone Cameroonians arrested in Nigeria and deported to Cameroon in January. The remaining 37 suspects are still being held by the authorities and have not been charged, said Ndong.
Cameroon’s government spokesman was not immediately available for comment.
A separatist insurgency gained pace in 2017 following a government crackdown on peaceful protests by Anglophones, who complain of being marginalized by the French-speaking majority.
Violence from both sides of the conflict intensified this year, forcing thousands of civilians to seek refuge in Francophone regions.
Biya, re-elected to a seventh term in October, said in his inauguration speech last month the separatists must lay down their arms or face the full force of the law.
Cameroon regularly sentences people to death but has not carried out an execution in years.
Reporting by Josiane Kouagheu; Writing by Sofia Christensen; Editing by Aaron Ross
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