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Last Updated: Friday, 3 March 2006, 17:53 GMT
Jail term for Cameroon gay libel
Screen grab from anti-gay article in July 2004
This is not the first such campaign in Cameroon
A Cameroon newspaper editor has been sentenced to four months in jail and ordered to pay a fine for defaming a minister by saying he was gay.

Jean Pierre Amougou Belinga must pay 1m CFA francs ($1,800) to the state and a symbolic franc to Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Gregoire Owona.

He was one of 50 leading figures on a list published by L'Anecdote newspaper.

Homosexual acts are banned in Cameroon, with up to five years in jail. Hundreds of anti-gay protesters were at court.

But the BBC's Randy Joe Sa'ah in Yaounde says the crowds were smaller than on other days of the trial.

Like much of Africa, Cameroon is a conservative society, where homosexuality is frowned upon.

But our correspondent says it is an open secret that homosexuality is alive in the country and that the law banning homosexual acts is rarely used.

'No proof'

Mr Belinga was not in court but a warrant was not made for his arrest.

He was also ordered to publish the judgement in 15 local and international media.

The judge said he had failed to prove that Mr Owona had had homosexual relations.

Mr Belinga had supplied the court with the name of the minister's alleged gay partner but had not produced him in court.

Mr Belinga's lawyer said he would appeal against the verdict.

Other newspapers joined in the campaign to "out" homosexuals, which proved very popular and sparked a national debate about gay rights and privacy.

One newspaper had to have extra print runs.

Last year, lobby group Human Rights Watch condemned the practice of forced anal examinations of those arrested on charges of having gay sex.

Zanzibar imams halt gay wedding
13 May 05 |  Africa
Country profile: Cameroon
04 Feb 06 |  Country profiles

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