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Colleagues held over Cameroon gay activist's death

BY DIVINE NTARYIKE AND ROBBIE COREY-BOULET, ASSOCIATED PRESS

DOUALA, Cameroon -- Police in Cameroon held two employees of a human rights organization for three days in connection with the killing of a prominent gay rights activist, their lawyer said, sparking criticism over how the investigation is being handled.

The two employees, Michel Engama and Cedric Mbarga, were released Tuesday afternoon without charge, said Michel Togue, a member of the legal team representing them as well as the family of the slain activist, Eric Ohena Lembembe.

Engama and Mbarga worked with Lembembe at CAMFAIDS, a human rights organization based in the capital of Yaounde, and were among the last people to see him alive on July 12, Togue said. Three days later, Lembembe's body was discovered at his home bearing signs of torture.

Lembembe's friends suspect he was killed over his activism. Just weeks before his death, he had warned about the threat posed by "anti-gay thugs" in Cameroon, one of the most hostile countries for sexual minorities in sub-Saharan Africa.

Human Rights Watch had earlier expressed doubt over whether law enforcement officials were willing and able to carry out a thorough, effective investigation of Lembembe's death, pointing out that previous incidents of anti-gay threats and violence had only resulted in the taking of statements.

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