Six members of Cameroon’s President Paul Biya’s security staff have been convicted by Swiss judges investigating a reported attack on a journalist in Geneva on 26 June.
The arrests took place last Tuesday, according to a statement by canton Geneva’s justice department. Four of the guards 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 26 June 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 the foreign ministry in 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, 27 June and were dispersed by tear gas and water cannons after some tried to break through police lines.
President Biya, whose presence in Geneva caused the protests and some diplomatic upheaval, returned home last week.
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.