A Cameroonian journalist, Ahmed Abba, jailed for ten years for contact with Islamist militant group Boko Haram is to regain freedom after a court on Thursday shortened his sentence, his lawyer said.
Abba, Radio France Internationale reporter, was arrested in July 2015 and sentenced in April this year to 10 years imprisonment on terrorism charges that rights groups denounced as a sham.
Authorities said they found evidence on Abba’s computer of attacks planned by Boko Haram, against targets in Nigeria, Cameroon and neighbouring countries. Over 20,000 people have been killed by the bloodthirsty group since it began its guerrilla war in 2009.
Abba denied knowledge of attacks and protested his innocence.
The sentence was reduced to two years on Thursday when an appeals court dropped the terrorism charges but upheld less serious charges of “non-denunciation” of terrorism.
“Technically, Abba can be outside today, tomorrow or the day after tomorrow,” given that he has already been in jail for over two years, his lawyer Charles Tchoungang said.
Abba’s forthcoming release comes amid a crackdown on dissent by President Paul Biya, who is seeking to extend his 35-year rule in 2018 elections.
The government is confronting a growing separatist insurgency in the country’s Anglophone regions as well as the threat from Boko Haram.
Patrice Nganang, a prize-winning Cameroonian author, who lives in New York, was arrested during a visit to Cameroon this month for writing a Facebook post critical of Biya.
Nganang is being held in jail until court proceedings in January, 2018.
Rights Groups and RFI welcomed Thursday’s ruling.
“This ruling is a victory for Abba, who has been detained for more than two years simply for doing his job as a journalist,” said Amnesty International Researcher, Ilaria Allegrozzi.