Stony Brook Cultural Studies & Comparative Literature professor Patrice Nganang was released from prison in Cameroon by a court decision on Wednesday, Dec. 27, multiple sources report.
Nganang, 37, had been detained by judiciary police in Yaoundé, Cameroon’s capital, since Dec. 6, when he was apprehended at Douala International Airport while preparing to board a flight to Zimbabwe. The professor was charged with multiple offenses for a Facebook post he wrote, including insulting Cameroonian president Paul Biya and issuing a death threat.
The Cameroonian-American professor had all charges against him dropped in court on Wednesday. He was deported from the country of his birth and permitted to return to the United States, where he holds dual citizenship.
Nganang’s case was met with an outpouring of support from the academic community. Several open letters calling for the professor’s release were sent to government officials and a GoFundMe page organized by his wife, Nyasha Bakare, to help cover his legal fees raised $4,635 in 19 days.
Following Nganang’s release, Stony Brook University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. released an official statement expressing his gratitude for the public support that both Nganang and the university received.
“The University is gratified that Professor Nganang has been cleared of all charges and that he is free to return home to his family and friends,” Stanley said. “As we await further details, we are grateful for all of the support and guidance from all those who were involved and look forward to welcoming Patrice back on campus.”
Nganang’s apprehension came just one day after the professor published an article in the French-language news magazine Jeune Afrique criticizing how Biya and the Cameroonian government responded to police killings in the country’s English-speaking minority regions. Cameroon’s anglophones consider themselves second-class citizens in a country where the government and and education system are dominated by a French-speaking majority.
After Biya ordered several villages in the region to evacuate or be considered accomplices to terrorism, Nganang openly wondered whether the government was preparing to forcibly relocate the populace into concentration camps. Both Nganang’s lawyer, Emmanuel Simh, and the Committee to Protect Journalists consider his detention a retaliation for his work in the press.
Nganang is currently back at his home in Hopewell, New Jersey with his wife.