A former ally of Cameroon’s President Paul Biya was on Wednesday handed a 25-year jail term over the embezzlement of $5 million (4.4 million euros), judicial sources said.
Jean-Marie Atangana Mebara, a former minister of state, was convicted by a special criminal court as part of an anti-corruption drive launched in 2006.
He was found guilty of embezzling cash earmarked for the purchase of a plane for Biya’s use in 2003.
A group calling itself the “committee for the liberation of political prisoners in Cameroon” condemned the sentence, saying in a statement that “absolutely no proof of embezzlement had been produced during the trial”.
The group, which is active on social media, said the verdict was part of an “avalanche of arbitrary convictions which has all the appearances of a political witch hunt”.
Many prominent figures have been caught up in the anti-corruption drive, dubbed “Operation Sparrowhawk”, including former prime minister Ephraim Inoni who was jailed for 20 years, and former head of the now defunct national airline Camair, Yves Michel Fotso, who was jailed for life in April.
Operation Sparrowhawk was launched in 2006 under strong pressure from Cameroon’s foreign donors.
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