By Tata Mbunwe
Lawyers seeking justice for Ngule Linus Fonteh, a University of Buea student who died in military detention last month, have asked President Paul Biya to order an investigation into his death, as the Ministry of Defence remains silent over the issue.
In a four-page document released on Friday, March 31, the defence team headed by Barrister Amungwa Tanyi also demanded the release of Akua Jires, the roommate of Linus Fonteh, who has been detained incommunicado since March 15.
The document that was also addressed to MINDEF, the University of Buea, and diplomatic missions accredited to Cameroon, also asked that an autopsy be conducted on Linus’ body to determine the real cause of his death amid allegations of torture.
“Flowing from the above, the defence team is urging all the institutions cited above in our preamble to: Create an independent commission to investigate the cause of death of Ngule Linus and illegal holding of his roommate incommunicado,” said the defence team.
They added that the government should “cause them (SEMIL) to allow the family to conduct post-mortem on the corpse of the late son and release with immediate effect for burial according to the tradition of the Balikumbat village, which is not repugnant to natural justice.”
The petition is the first official statement from the defence team of Linus Fonteh and Akua Jires.
The two friends, who hail from Balikumbat village in the Northwest Region, were arbitrarily arrested from their hostel in Buea at about 1pm on March 15, by military officers working with SEMIL, an investigative arm of the military.
By 1:00am on Thursday, March 16, the officers brought the corpse of Ngule Linus to the Buea Regional Hospital mortuary.
His phone was used to call his older brother, Ngule Raymond, with the anonymous caller telling him to come and collect his corpse.
Meanwhile, the defence counsel said Akua Jires has been transferred from SEMIL to the Gendarmerie Legion in Buea, and has been denied access to his lawyers and family.
Rights defender corroborates ‘false’ terrorism accusations
Ngule Linus and Akua Jires are being accused of working with Ambazonia separatists to plant explosive devices in Buea.
The SEMIL officers told Linus’ older brother, Ngule Raymond, that they had found a gun in their hostel when they searched it on March 15.
The defence counsel however termed the accusations false and unfounded.
Meanwhile, popular human rights defender, Barrister Agbor Nkongho, who helped Linus’ family to table a complaint at the Gendarmerie, corroborated the terrorism accusations against the two students.
“The human rights activist corroborated the falsehood of the (SEMIL) Commander by stating that Mboh Jires professed all their terrorist activities live before him that both of them were separatists’ fighters,” the defence team noted.
However, relatives of the two students were shocked at the accusations slammed on them, adding to the unexpected death of Ngule Linus.
Defence Ministry’s silence
Cameron’s Ministry of Defence, MINDEF, has issued no statement 20 days since the two students were arrested and one died in detention.
SEMIL, an acronym for Securite Militaire or Military Security, which initiates the arrests, is controlled by MINDEF.
But the it has remained mute to the accusations of torture and manslaughter the defence lawyers are making against its officers.
MINDEF’s silence in this particular case is not surprising, as this has been its default mode of operation in the phase of reported military excesses.
Since Ngule Linus was reported dead, the only State institution that has issued a public release about it is the University of Buea.
In a communique last week, the institution confessed two of its students were arrested for investigations and one died in detention.
UB’s Vice-Chancellor Prof Horace Ngomo Manga, who signed the release, also said they had been informed that an autopsy had been ordered to be conducted on the body of Ngule Linus, to determine what killed him.
The defence lawyers however said MINDEF was yet to order an autopsy to be conducted.
Meanwhile, the military have said Ngule Linus’ body will only be handed to the family after the autopsy, which is still far-fetched.
Mimi Mefo Info