An appellate court in Cameroon has upheld a three-year prison sentence against a man found guilty of homosexual conduct for sending a text message read: “I’m very much in love with you” to another man.
Jean-Claude Roger Mbede, 32, has already served a year-and-a-half for his “crime”—his only option is an appeal to Cameroon’s Supreme Court in the capital city of Yaounde (where homophobic Cameroonians celebrated “Gay Hate Day” in August.)
Mbede’s failing health and reports of assaults led authorities to release him on bail earlier this year. Another 18 months in prison could be a death sentence, Mbede told the AP:
“I am going back to the dismal conditions that got me critically ill before I was temporarily released for medical reasons,” he told The Associated Press by telephone. “I am not sure I can put up with the anti-gay attacks and harassment I underwent at the hands of fellow inmates and prison authorities on account of my perceived and unproven sexual orientation. The justice system in this country is just so unfair.”
While laws against homosexuality exist in many African countries (most notoriously Uganda), Camaroon is the most vigilant when it comes to actual prosecutions. A dozen people were convicted of homosexuality last year, often based on little or no evidence or forced confessions.
Cameroon’s penal code calls for imprisonment of up to five years for homosexual conduct, with arrests sometimes based merely on a suspect’s appearance or mannerisms: In October, two men were jailed because they appeared effeminate and had been seen drinking Bailey’s Irish Cream.