In 2016, three young Cameroonians were sentenced to ten years in jail by a military court “for sharing a sarcastic SMS referring to Boko Haram,” the human rights watchdog Amnesty International said.
Their release provides a great relief, AI said in a statement on Tuesday.
According to the NGO, Fomusoh Ivo Feh, Afuh Nivelle Nfor and Azah Levis Gob “have been punished against all logic” because they were only “peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression.”
AI Director for West and Central Africa, Samira Daoud said: “We are delighted that they were released this weekend and that they have finally been reunited with their families after seven long years behind bars.”
She also called on the Cameroonian authorities to “protect human rights and ensure that everyone can speak freely without fear of reprisal.”
Amnesty International thanked “all those who have campaigned tirelessly for their release, including (those) who have written to President Paul Biya calling for an end to this injustice.”
The three students were convicted on 2 November 2016 of “failing to report information related to terrorism.”
Subsequently, Fomusoh Ivo Feh, Afuh Nivelle Nfor and Azah Levis Gob benefited from a reduction of sentence from ten to five years, decided by the Supreme Court on 16 December.
However, Victorine Chantal Edzengte, their lawyer, stressed that the ruling only concerns the sentence, but their guilt is still maintained.
The message that earned the three students seven years in prison is “Boko Haram is recruiting people from 14. Recruitment requirements: 4 subjects at GCE, including religion.”
According to Amnesty International, the text was in fact “an observation about the difficulty of finding a decent job in Cameroon without being highly qualified and played on the idea that even the armed group Boko Haram only recruits people who have done well in their exams.”