Cameroon: Key suspects in murder case of journalist Martinez Zogo released

Nearly 11 months after the assassination of Cameroonian radio host Martinez Zogo, the state scandal that it triggered continues to shake the nation.

On Friday morning (Nov. 01), the prime suspects in the murder of the late 50-year journalist were set to be released.

A document allegedly issued by the military court of Yaoundé ordered the provisional release of Jean-Pierre Amougou Belinga and Léopold Maxime Eko Eko.

Examining magistrate of the Yaoundé military court, Lieutenant-Colonel Florent Aimé Sikati II Kamwo, on Friday supposedly considered that there was insufficient evidence to justify their continued detention.

Counter-intelligence boss Eko Eko and tycoon Amougou Belinga have been detained at Yaoundé’s Kodengi prison for months. In March, they were charged with torture.

Late on Friday, a missive indicated that documents issued earlier in the day, couldn’t be trusted.

A letter penned by the government commissioner read that the order of the examining magistrate of the military court granting release to the suspects in Martinez Zogo’s murder, was a forgery.

The lawyers of counter-intelligence boss Eko Eko expressed disbelief as they await new developments.

What charges?

The businessman and the head of the Direction générale de la recherche extérieure (DGRE) are accused of having played a role in the death of the director of radio Amplitude FM, whose tortured body was discovered on the outskirts of Yaoundé in January. Zogo had not been missing for five days before his remains were located January 22 near Soa, a suburb of Yaoundé.

Léopold Maxime Eko Eko is suspected of “having provoked in any way whatsoever the torture of Martinez Zogo or given instructions to commit it”, in the words of the examining magistrate. In the course of the investigation, the intelligence chief was questioned several times on the substance of the case. In particular, he was confronted by his sole accuser, Justin Danwe, as well as several agents working within the DGRE at the time of the events.

Among the incriminating elements that interested the investigators: the holding of a meeting during which Léopold Maxime Eko Eko, Justin Danwe and several DGRE technicians allegedly listened to an audio tape attributed to Martinez Zogo, in which he allegedly made defamatory remarks about the head of the intelligence services.

In the minutes of the release order, quoted by jeune Afrique, the magistrates noted that Eko Eko, Danwe and the witnesses cited had assured them “that a meeting had never been held at the situation center with the journalist Martinez Zogo as the subject”.

Outrage over Zogo’s murder

The murder of Salomon Mbani Zogo better known as Martinez Zogo left many shocked in Cameroon as NGOs continued to call out violations of press freedom and freedom of speech.

The man in hius fifties was the host of popular daily radio show, Embouteillage or Gridlock in English. On the air, he regularly tackled cases of corruption and alleged embezzlement, not hesitating to question important personalities by name. Amougou Belinga was one of them. The businessman is reputedly a friend of several ministers. 

Fellow journalists paid their respects to Zogo and called for an investigation which Cameroonian President Paul Biya ordered on Thursday, February 2. The probe into the abduction and subsequent brutal killing of the journalist led to the arrests of Jean-Pierre Amougou Belinga and Léopold Maxime Eko Eko.

Reporters without Borders alleged that “the outcome of the investigations [remained] very uncertain as the affair’s ramifications reach up to the highest level of the state while the political environment [was] described by several local sources as verging on insurrection.”