Amnesty International has called on the authorities in Equatorial Guinea to immediately and unconditionally release a cartoonist, Ramón Esono Ebalé, who has been criticizing human rights violations in the country.
The cartoonist was arrested on September 16, 2017 in the capital Malabo.
Amnesty International, in a statement issued on Wednesday, said although the law in Equatorial Guinea said a suspect could not be detained for more than 72 hours without charge, Esono had been detained for two months without being formally charged.
The group said prosecutors alleged that witnesses had accused him of heading an organisation involved in money laundering and counterfeiting – accusations he categorically denied.
“In this latest example of arbitrary arrest and detention, the authorities in Equatorial Guinea have levelled baseless accusations against Ramón Esono Ebalé, who was simply enjoying his right to freedom of expression through his art.
“Ramón is a prisoner of conscience who has been languishing in jail for 60 days, detained solely for his peaceful activism. He must be immediately and unconditionally released,” said Marta Colomer, Amnesty International West Africa campaigner.
Amnesty said the court was yet to respond to a request submitted by Ramón’s lawyers onOctober 9 to cross-examine the prosecution’s witnesses.
According to the group, Ramón’s lawyers believed there would be no case against him once they proved that the witnesses were giving false testimony but fear the authorities were using delaying tactics to keep him in prison.
It said if the court did not respond to their submission by November 30, the end of the judicial year in Equatorial Guinea, then Ramón could remain in prison until at leastJanuary 16.
Ramón’s wife, Eloísa Vaello Marco, was quoted as saying: “Ramón uses his drawings to satirize the government of Equatorial Guinea and denounce things that he considers to be unjust. He does it through a smart sense of humour from the bottom of his heart. His tools are images, drawings, video, illustrations and animations.”
“This hurts me a lot. Since he is in prison I have just been able to talk to him once. It was when he had his hearing in Court. There were just a few words. Since then, communications with him have not been possible, but I try to send him messages of strength and confidence through his sisters, to whom I talk every day,” she added.