UNITED NATIONS — Supporters of the Stony Brook University professor who has been detained in Cameroon for two weeks are renewing a call for his release after a prosecutor in that nation’s capital delayed his court proceedings until a month from now.
“Why is Cameroonian-American writer-activist, Patrice Nganang, spending Christmas in prison?” his support group, consisting of friends and family of the scholar, wrote in a news release Wednesday, two weeks after Nganang was taken into custody at an airport in Douala.
“As much of the world prepares for the Christmas holidays, please spare a thought for Patrice Nganang’s family,” the supporters wrote. “Patrice is currently in the infamous Kondengui Central Prison in Cameroon. He has now been held for 14 days by the Cameroonian government. Local Cameroonian sympathizers had to buy him a mattress so that he had something to sleep on in his cell.”
His detention, which occurred on Dec. 6 as he tried to board a plane to travel to Zimbabwe to meet his wife, Nyasha Bakare, began a day after the publication of an article he wrote in Jeune Afrique, criticizing Cameroon’s president, Paul Biya, and a few days after a Facebook posting in which Nganang was seen by Cameroonian authorities as threatening Biya’s life.
Cameroonian officials could not be reached for comment but Nganang’s supporters said he is charged with issuing a death threat, insulting the military and inciting violence and must spend the next month in a maximum security prison until his trial.
Supporters said the prosecutor adjourned the case on Friday until Jan. 19 to seek witnesses in preparation for a trial. Emmanuel Simh, Nganang’s attorney, could not be reached for comment.
U.S. officials have said they are aware of Nganang’s arrest but could not divulge information about the case over privacy concerns.
And a Stony Brook University spokeswoman said on Wednesday there was no new information to release about Nganang, who teaches in the cultural studies and comparative literature department.
Nganang wrote of the plight of the English-speaking southwest and northwest regions of Cameroon, which have been at odds with the government in what UN officials have deemed an escalating crisis over the past year.
The Anglophone areas have long maintained that they are victims of discrimination by their French-speaking counterparts, including the president. Experts cite how French is exclusively taught in schools and used in official correspondences and residents from those areas are systematically excluded from government jobs and other positions of power.
In October, activists launched a movement to secede through demonstrations that have become violent as government forces try to quell dissent, UN officials said, adding that tens of thousands have fled into Nigeria to escape the turmoil.
For as many as three months this year, government officials cut off internet access to the two regions. It was restored in April. Then access to social media sites was all but impossible in the two English-speaking regions for several weeks beginning in late September, according to UN officials and media reports.