Ahmed Abba was named the 2017 International Press Freedom Award recipient but he couldn’t take his award because he was in prison.
Radio France International’s Hausa service journalist was sentenced to 10 years in prison by a Cameroon military tribunal for “non-denunciation of terrorism” and “laundering of the proceeds of terrorist acts”.
He was arrested on July 30, 2015, in Maroua, capital of the Far North region on suspicion of collaborating with Boko Haram and withholding information. He was held and tortured by Cameroonian authorities for three months before he was transferred to the capital Yaounde where he had been in prison for over two years.
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He was convicted in April 2017 on the charges, but acquitted of the charge of “glorifying acts of terrorism.” Abba was also fined 55,726,325 CFA francs (over $90,000) or face five extra years in prison in default of payment.
He, however, escaped the controversial death penalty adopted by Cameroon in its December 2014 anti-terrorism law reserved for perpetrators or accomplices of terrorist acts.
RFI and other human rights bodies demanded his release. Amnesty International described the conviction and sentencing as an “unfair trial” and “a travesty of justice”.
After failed appeals, Abba was released on December 22, 2017, from the Yaoundé prison after nearly 29 months.
A year after he was awarded the International Press Freedom Award by the Committee to Protect Journalists, Ahmed Abba was presented with the award on November 20, 2018, at their annual convention in New York.
This is what he had to say: