The journalist, who has been in pre-trial detention for 17 months, failed a second time to appear at the Yaounde Administrative Center’s Court of First Instance yesterday October 1 for a court case that has already passed through three different judges.
The journalist Paul Chouta’s case was postponed last September 3 when prison authorities refused to let him appear in court to answer defamation charges for which he is being accused.
The reason for not producing him in court, lawyers say, is that there has been a new distribution of hearings so that his file has left the office of the previous judge for a new judge who will handle the case. Thus this situation put de facto the case on hold while waiting for this judge to re-register the case.
Defending lawyers say the case was suspended from today’s hearing for the judge to re-register it following a new distribution of hearings such that his file was transferred to a new judge who has to study the case before hearing can take place.
On September 3, when he did not appear in court for the first time, judges said he could not be taken from the penitentiary facility to court because the prosecution had not issued an extraction warrant.
On October 1, to everyone’s surprise, he was absent from the hearing still for lack of the extraction warrant, says one of Chouta’s defending lawyers.
Paul Chouta was arrested on May 28, 2019 after Franco-Cameroonian writer Calixthe Beyala, sued him for defamation and insult over a write-up he did.
Though awaiting trial, the case has already undergone 16 referrals and has been handled by three different judges.
On July 22, 2020, the first judge who followed this case rejected the evidence provided by the complainant via her lawyer for lack of authentication.
The civil party then asked for more time to gather evidence, a request which had been granted.
But following transfers of judges within the judiciary, the judge working on the case was transferred and on August 26, 2020, he was challenged by one of the parties. This is how the case was handed over to a judge who was not assigned.
The case was then postponed to September 3, 2020 and the new judge again postponed the hearing to October 1.
But today October 1, “we learn that there has been a repair of the hearings and that the case has been turned over to another judge who has not yet enlisted the case,” says a defending lawyer.
“These realities certainly make the Paul Chouta affair one of the most incredible cases in flagrante delicto that we have ever seen in correctional matters. How else to understand that for 17 months to try someone who is said to have been caught in flagrante delicto for the offense with which he is accused?” added the lawyer.
Mimi Mefo Info