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Martinez Zogo Case: Debates Flare Over Broadcast of Hearings, DGRE's Civil Action

Martinez Zogo Case: Debates Flare Over Broadcast of Hearings, DGRE's Civil Action

Paru le mardi, 26 mars 2024 09:47

The first hearing in the case of the murder of radio presenter Martinez Zogo was held at the Yaoundé Military Court yesterday. It was focused on three procedural elements: reading of party letters, lawyer presentations, and preliminary observations.  The latter sparked a lively, four-hour debate among the various parties' legal representatives.

It was marked by an initial dispute over broadcasting types. Charles Tchoungang, representing businessman Jean Pierre Amougou Belinga, requested a live broadcast. This was opposed by Samuel Jacques Mbuny, representing Lt. Col Justin Danwe. Danwe, ex-operations director of the DGRE intelligence agency and alleged mastermind of the assassination, initially sought a partial closed session.

The case involves “17 defendants, 14 of whom are from the DGRE. [...] I felt that some statements required a degree of confidentiality, even in a public hearing. However, this request for partial privacy was later retracted when a lawyer, representing the State of Cameroon as a civil party, made his presence known during the hearing. His mandate, signed by the Director General of the DGRE, was read aloud,” Samuel Jacques Mbuny explained. 

The DGRE as a civil party 

Mr. Mbuny said he felt it was a "breaking point” because, "what we wanted to protect was no longer worth protecting with the DGRE coming as a civil party in the trial.”  He added: "If the court wants it to decide on a closed-door session, but for me, from the moment the DGRE does not come to support its former members, but against them, the die is cast. Everyone will defend their own skin."

Mr. Claude Assira finds the DGRE's position normal. The lawyer representing the counter-espionage service explains that the service wants to ensure that the proceedings will not be to its disadvantage. By becoming a civil party, the DGRE wants to "protect its image," Mr. Assira explains. In addition, this secret service wants to avoid being "civilly responsible" for the assassination of the head of the Amplitude FM channel. This would lead to the payment of damages to the beneficiaries.

The state could be held civilly liable if orders to agents that led to the incident were not deemed separate from their service, said Mr. Assira. He added that the state must establish this to restore its image. Should the state believe it did not issue the orders in question, that position must prevail, Assira said.

Contested marriage certificate 

Lt. Col. Justin Danwe's lawyer, Mr. Tchougnang, criticized the presence of two sets of lawyers representing Martinez Zogo's family: one defending the interests of a companion of the journalist and his children, the other representing his brothers and sisters as well as other children and their mother. This is a perfectly normal situation, according to the lawyers representing the deceased’s parents. Crépin Ndjodo, one of the lawyers, argues that at this stage of the proceedings, anyone with an interest can join as a civil party. 

Mr. Tchoungang argues that the court should reject the civil action brought by the camp of Mrs. Zogo Dorothée née Nzie, on the grounds that the marriage certificate linking the victim to her is a forgery. The lawyer justifies his position by the fact that the document signed at Ebebda town hall bears the name "Martinez Zogo", the host's signature, instead of that of Arsène Mbani Zogo, the host’s name. This renders the union of the two spouses illegal and consequently does not authorize Dorothée Marie Zogo née Nzie camp to bring a civil action.

However, some lawyers for the civil party dismissed this as an attempt to delay the trial and prevent the truth from being told. Mr. Assira, the lawyer for the counter-espionage service, said the debate was expected. He conceded it's a valid tactic but questioned the manner of its use. The trial is adjourned until April 15th for the judge's ruling on the preliminary matters raised by the lawyers.

Ludovic Amara

● Fact Cheking



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