By Tata Mbunwe
Buea High Court judge, Anne Afong, ruled on Tuesday, November 16, that the arrest and detention of nursing mother, Antoinette Kongso, remain legal until 2022 when the magistrate must have concluded investigations into the charges against her.
Lawyers defending the 30-year-old woman vowed they will appeal the verdict, as the habeas corpus case, filed by Barrister Ewule Lyonga and 11 other lawyers, was dismissed from court for a second time.
Kongso is being accused of failing to report the “terrorist” activities of her ex-boyfriend, separatist “general” No Pity, whom she dated five years ago.
A team of about 12 human rights lawyers has been demanding her release, but the court has maintained that both the arrest and detention was legal, dismissing a second habeas corpus suit filed at the high court, after the first one was dismissed on November 9.
Despite Kongso appearing in court for the first time, alongside her week-old baby, Barrister Ewule said they were not satisfied with Tuesday’s ruling which deemed her arrest and detention legal.
“We are not very satisfied with the issues that were addressed by the High Court of Fako today by His Lordship Justice Anne Afong, because the issue of the illegal arrest of Madam Kongnso Antoinette was not touched by the judge,” Ewule told reporters on Tuesday.
“The judge refused to touch on the issue of the illegal arrest, and was instead looking at the issue of the detention. If you look at section 584 and 585 of the CPC (Cameroon Penal Code) it talks of habeas corpus looking at the illegal – the judge must look at the illegal arrest.
“We are saying that the person who did the arrest did not have the power to do the arrest. The judge went on to say that she has been charged before the military court for failure to report terrorism, and we are still waiting to see. She was remanded in prison custody on the 8 October 2021. Since she was remanded, she was eight months pregnant. She is being charged under section 107 and section 74(2). If you are charged under those sections, it’s a misdemeanor and she was supposed to be granted bail.”
Lead Counsel for the habeas corpus case, Barrister Legenju Vitalise, said they were also dissatisfied because the Military Court assumed jurisdiction for the case, instead of the High Court.
“The first application was struck out based on technical grounds which was a little bit disturbing,” he told reporters. “We went back home, amended the application, came back fully. Unfortunately for us today, the High Court of Fako declined jurisdiction because the said Madam Antoinette had already been charged before the Military Tribunal.
“The military tribunal does not have the mandate to hear applications of habeas corpus, so it is the sole preserve of the Fako High Court. For the Fako High Court to decline jurisdiction so that the military tribunal… is a little bit funny; because the issue of illegality of her arrest has nothing to do with the detention of Madam Antoinette.”
Antoinette Kongnso Gohla, was arrested from her abode at Sandpit – Buea on October 2 by Cameroonian soldier and Bwassa village Chief, John Ewome Eko, also called Moja Moja.
In a video he circulated on social media, Chief Ewome said he had arrested the wife of separatist “general” No Pity, although the woman currently lives with Clovis Sima, with whom she has children.
“The sole issue for determination, which is what the habeas corpus was to address, was whether the arrest of Madam Antoinette was within the bounds of the law. Should Chief Moja Moja be given the mandate to arrest civilians in this country? …that was the sole question before the High Court of Fako. We expected the High Court of Fako to rule on that issue,” said Barrister Legenju.
The lawyers were given five days (beginning Nov. 17) to appeal against the court’s verdict, and from indications, the military court will henceforth be looking into the case.
After Tuesday’s court session, she was ferried back to the Buea Central Prison alongside her baby which she put to birth at the Buea Regional Hospital while in detention.