Several news sites reported that the popular singer Lapiro de Mbanga was sentenced to three years in jail for taking part in anti-government riots in Cameroon in February 2008.
Protests and appeals The Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC) of International PEN and Freemuse protests the three-year prison sentence and exorbitant fine imposed on the well known singer-songwriter Lapiro de Mbanga (real name Pierre Roger Lambo Sandjo): International PEN Appeal Freemuse Appeal
The verdict The African Press Agency writes that the musician was found guilty for his “complicity in the looting, destruction of property, arson, obstructing streets, degrading the public or classified property and forming illegal gatherings”. The verdict was three years in mandatory prison. Lapiro was also ordered to pay 280 million CFA francs, about 630,000 US dollars, in damages to the SPM (Société des Plantations de Mbanga) and the ministry of finances.
Criticising the government 51-year-old Lapiro is the author songs criticising Cameroonian constitutional reforms as well as the government. His supporters claim that he is victimized for his songs, reports BBC News Africa.
Lapiro’s wife denied that he took part in the riots. She told AFP news agency that her husband actually calmed people down, preventing them to burn down the city hall in his hometown Mbanga.
Silence The verdict was announced by the Mungo Magistrate court in the early afternoon on Wednesday 24 September 2008. Cameroon-info reports that the court was full of people and when the verdict was announced it was followed by silence. Nobody moved – the audience seemed “struck by a lightning”.
However, Augustin Mbami from Lapiro’s defence said to Cameroon-info that the verdict isn’t as bad as it could have been, considering that Lapiro only was found guilty to three out of six charges and that the SPM had claimed one billion CFA francs in damages.