Six members of Cameroon president Paul Biya’s staff have been convicted by Swiss judges investigating a reported attack on a journalist in Geneva last week.
The arrests took place on Tuesday, according to a statementexternal link from canton Geneva’s justice department, before on Wednesday four of the staff were given a four month suspended prison sentence, and two were given a three month suspended sentence.
Geneva prosecutors found the individuals (five men and one woman) guilty of coercion, damage to property, and illegal appropriation.
A journalist from Swiss public broadcaster RTS filed the complaint following an incident on June 26 outside the InterContinental hotel in the city. The journalist says he was assaulted by members of Biya’s security team who took his bag containing a mobile phone and wallet. The seized items were later returned.
The incident took place during a demonstration outside of the hotel, where Biya was staying, by a group of protesters. The alleged assault prompted Switzerland to summon the ambassador of Cameroon to Bern, where he was told that “such incidents are unacceptable, and that freedom of the press is protected and must be respected.”
At around the same time, the Swiss foreign ministry announced that Switzerland was acting as a facilitator in the crisis in north-western and south-western Cameroon.
Some 250 anti-Biya protesters returned to the hotel on Saturday and were dispersed by tear gas and water cannons after some tried to break through police lines.
A 2018 report by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) accused Biya of spending a considerable amount of his time abroad since coming to power in Cameroon in 1982, much of it at luxury hotels in Geneva.