Cameroon: Conclusions Presented by Investigating Judge in Martinez Zogo Case

Soukaina Sghir
Soukaina Sghir
4 Min Read
Journalist

Colonel Magistrate Pierrot Narcisse Nzie rendered his decision on February 29th, closing the judicial investigation and referring the Zogo case to the Yaoundé military tribunal. Seventeen accused individuals, all in detention, will stand trial. The trial, highly anticipated, encompasses charges ranging from conspiracy to torture and the murder of radio host Arsène Salomon Mbani Zogo, known as “Martinez” Zogo, in January 2023.

While awaiting the trial’s commencement date, several parties are already requesting that the proceedings be broadcast on radio and television “to avoid pressures and enable the public to form a clear understanding,” explains a lawyer representing one of the accused.

Upon reviewing the settlement order marking the end of the judicial investigation – in other words, the inquiry – by the third military investigating judge handling the case since Martinez Zogo’s murder, lawyers from different parties express discomfort, each for different reasons. “We are relieved that the investigation is over and that we are moving towards a trial,” states Attorney Calvin Job, representing several members of the deceased Martinez Zogo’s family. However, he finds the judge’s conclusions presented to him “very confusing.”

For instance, why are the only accused individuals presented as possible instigators – former head of the DGRE (Cameroon’s counter-espionage service), Léopold Maxime Eko Eko, and media group owner Jean-Pierre Amougou Belinga – not charged with “complicity in murder,” but only “complicity in torture”? For the defense collective of Commissioner Eko Eko, there was “an accumulation of irrefutable exculpatory elements,” and “recent developments suggested a much more objective handling of the case.”

Questions Surrounding the Date of the Body’s Discovery

Attorney Charles Tchoungang, representing Jean-Pierre Amougou Belinga, refers to the investigating judge’s conclusions as a “forced landing.” The former bar president is surprised to see, on one hand, the final requisition from the government commissioner, and on the other, the judge’s order, both dated the same day, without any delay, reflection, or drafting period.

Is this a sign of haste?

The date listed in the introduction for the discovery of Martinez Zogo’s body is incorrect. It states “January 23,” whereas it was early morning on Sunday, January 22nd, 2023, when the presenter’s relatives were called to identify the body found in Soa, in the Ebogo district, about 25 kilometers northwest of Yaoundé.

Justin Danwe and Stéphane Martin Savom Accused of Complicity in Murder

Regarding another accused individual, Lieutenant Colonel Justin Danwe, former director of operations at the DGRE, accused of complicity in abduction, imprisonment, torture, and murder, his lawyer, Attorney Jacques Mbuny, believes that “from the beginning, they’ve been trying to pin the blame” on his client.

While Justin Danwe admitted to organizing the operation against Martinez Zogo, he consistently denied that death was the intended outcome. “My client is adamant: there was never any intention to kill Martinez Zogo. (…) If someone took his life, it was certainly other individuals. There is a part of the case that remains veiled.”

Stéphane Martin Savom, mayor of Bibey, a municipality in the Central Region, one of the last persons arrested in the investigation, is presented by the investigating judge as the other coordinator of the violent action against Martinez Zogo. Linked to Justin Danwe, he is also referred to the tribunal, likewise for complicity in abduction, imprisonment, torture, and murder.

Soukaina Sghir

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