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Zogo Trial in Cameroon: The Tribunal rejects several defence motions

The trial on the murder of the TV presenter Martinez Zogo has had its second hearing on Monday, April 15th, at the Military Court of Yaoundé. This highly anticipated hearing, just like the first one on March 25th, was attended by all 17 defendants and their respective lawyers, who were only partially heard on the requests they had made during the opening of the trial. One of the requests was the broadcast of the trial on the radio and television. However, the Court, following the recommendations of the Government Commissioner, did not approve this request because it goes against Cameroonian law. Nevertheless, the trial will remain public and open to those who wish to attend in person on the days of hearing. The other request, strongly supported by all defense lawyers, was for the right to obtain a copy of the complete investigation file. The Court’s decision was that there will be no reproduction or transmission of any part of the file, but only consultation on the spot. In order to prevent any potential issues that this measure could cause in the future proceedings, the Court and the different parties to the trial have agreed on a date, April 29th, to meet and discuss the schedule for lawyers to visit the Court’s registry. This meeting on April 29th will also aim to come up with a better organization for smoother proceedings. Because it became apparent during this hearing that the trial is struggling to start and risks getting bogged down in organizational and procedural issues. Between the first and second hearings, the same concerns were expressed, and it seemed like the lawyers could not agree on certain procedural points, the pace of the hearings, or even the preliminary steps to be completed before the substantive debates. With 17 defendants and around 40 lawyers, split between the defense and the civil party, there is a risk of making little progress. This April 29th hearing will therefore be crucial in setting things straight. Another important point addressed on April 15th was the question of the state’s responsibility in this procedure. Most of the defense lawyers have requested that the state be held liable, considering that two-thirds of the defendants are members of the Secret Services. “Even if the individuals who acted may have the status of civil servants or agents of the state, they did not receive any specific instructions from the state to carry out what was done and is being defended before the Court,” states Claude Assira, lawyer for the Dgre. The next hearing is scheduled for May 6th, with the witness list and the start of substantive debates on the agenda. In conclusion, the trial on the murder of Martinez Zogo has encountered some challenges in getting started due to procedural and organizational issues. However, it is clear that all parties involved are determined to find a suitable solution and ensure a fair and just trial. With the state’s liability also being called into question, this trial is not only about bringing justice for the victim, but also about examining the responsibility and actions of government institutions. We will have to wait and see how the proceedings unfold in the next hearing on May 6th
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