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Cameroon crisis: Ambazonia separatists get life sentences

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A leader of Cameroon’s separatist movement, Sisiku Ayuk Tabe, and nine of his followers have been given life sentences by a military court in the capital, Yaoundé.

They were convicted of rebellion, among other charges.

Their lawyers accused the judge of bias and withdrew from the proceedings.

The English-speaking separatists argue they are marginalised by the bureaucracy and school system in the majority French-speaking country.

The defendants had been arrested in Nigeria in January 2018 and deported back to Cameroon.

The court session on the verdicts, which started on Monday, went on until 05:30 (04:30 GMT) local time Tuesday morning, reports the BBC’s Leocadio Bongben.

By that time the defence lawyers had already withdrawn from the proceedings but continued to stay in the court as spectators.

Defence barrister Joseph Fru said there were irregularities in the proceedings, including the judge’s biases, but the military court rejected his evidence.

The long list of charges included rebellion, complicity in terrorism, financing terrorism, revolution, insurrection, hostility against the state, propagation of fake news and lack of identification.

The court also ordered the 10 to pay a fine of 250bn CFA francs ($422m; £359m) to the government for civil damages and 12bn CFA francs for court costs.

What’s happening in Cameroon?

Among the 10 who were convicted was Sisiku Ayuk Tabe, the leader of the so-called Governing Council of Ambazonia – the name separatists have given to Cameroon’s Anglophone North-West and South-West regions.

Cameroon’s English-speakers say they have been marginalised for decades by the central government and the French-speaking majority.

The current crisis started in 2016 when lawyers and teachers went on strike over the use of French in courts and schools.

In October 2017, activists declared autonomy over the two English-speaking regions – a move rejected by Cameroon’s President Paul Biya.

Some took up arms in 2017 and the crisis has forced more than 500,000 people from their homes.

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24 Hours Across Africa

Inter Milan cancells pre match conference ahead of Fiorentina clash

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Inter Milan cancelled a pre-match news conference on Saturday after what it called an “offensive letter” about manager Antonio Conte was printed in Italian newspaper Corriere dello Sport.

The Serie A club said the letter, submitted by a reader, was accompanied with a comment from one of the paper’s journalists “justifying its aggression”.

“In order to send out a message to all media outlets that they must ‘guarantee respect for people’, there won’t be a press conference today,” the club said.

Inter were eliminated from the Champions League on Tuesday, losing 2-1 to a young Barcelona team to finish third in their group behind the Spanish giants and Borussia Dortmund.

In the letter, a Bologna fan said that he “enjoyed seeing the great Inter outclassed by Barcelona B”, who had shown Inter’s “worn-out” coach how to play football.

The fan added that although Conte has won a lot of games in his career, he has “never shown a good game” and despite spending more than 150 million euros (£125m), Inter could not beat Slavia Prague and lost to Dortmund in the Champions League.

A journalist added a comment to the letter, saying that Inter have “thrown away the Champions League and maybe the rest too” by loaning striker Mauro Icardi to French side Paris St-Germain.

The journalist added: “No Icardi, No Party”.

Earlier this month, Roma, along with Inter’s rivals AC Milan, announced they would not work with Corriere dello Sport until January in response to the paper using the headline ‘Black Friday’ accompanied by images of Romelu Lukaku and Chris Smalling.

Corriere dello Sport defended the “innocent” headline in a comment piece on its website, saying it was a way to celebrate diversity.

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24 Hours Across Africa

Thailand: Thanathorn call for protest against possible ban

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Thai opposition party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit called for a peaceful protest on Saturday after asking supporters to mobilize in the face of a possible banon his Future Forward party.

Thanathorn, 41, has emerged as the most outspoken opponent of the government headed by former junta chief Prayuth Chan-ocha, 65, since elections in March that the opposition said were manipulated to favor the army.

“We reject all of violence, be it from the demonstrators or be it from government officials”.

“We believe that it’s time for the people who will not tolerate any more the NCPO regime to show themselves, to show their willingness to participate in politics,” he said, referring to the name of the former junta, The National Council for Peace and Order.

The call by Thanathorn for supporters to mobilize has revived memories of the spasms of protest in Bangkok over the past two decades of turbulent politics that were interrupted by coups in 2006 and 2014.

Thanathorn said he did not want to revive those disturbances or to call protests like those that have rocked Hong Kong this year.

Police in the Bangkok district to which Thanathorn has called his followers to gather said they had not received a request for a gathering in line with a law on public meetings, but have not said they would try to block it.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha told reporters it was inappropriate to organize a demonstration towards the end of the year.

Thailand’s election panel has asked the Constitutional Court to dissolve the Future Forward Party, accusing it of infringing laws governing political parties by accepting multi-million dollar loans from its leader Thanathorn.

Last month, the Constitutional Court found Thanathorn guilty of holding shares in a media company on the date his candidacy was registered for the election, disqualifying him as a member of parliament. Thanathorn disputed the ruling.

On Saturday, Thanathorn signed an agreement with six parties in an opposition alliance to push for changes to the constitution that was drawn up by the junta before the elections.

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