Trumped up charges against Equatorial Guinean cartoonist dropped

Courtesy Nsé Ramón Esono Ebalé

A cartoonist in Equatorial Guinea, who was arrested on dubious forgery charges, has been released following the collapse of his trial. Nsé Ramón Esono Ebalé, whose satirical work is often scathing of the dictatorial government of President Teodoro Obiang, was accused of counterfeiting US$1,800 of CFC francs. On his arrest in September however, and during his custody at the brutal Black Beach prison in Malabo, the country's capital, the police interrogated Esono Ebalé on his cartooning.

Esono Ebalé frequently draws under the Spanish pseudonym Jamón y Queso ('Ham and Cheese'). His 2014 graphic novel La pesadilla de Obi (Obi's Nightmare), created in collaboration with an anonymous writer, imagined Obiang 'accustomed to unbridled control of his country’s economy' waking up 'as an unemployed, witless husband in one of Malabo’s dreary slums.'

At the artist's trial on 27 February the police testimony on the counterfeiting charges conflicted with previous official accounts, with an officer admitting under cross-examination that he had fabricated evidence on orders of his superiors. The prosecution withdrew the charges.

'Ramón’s release from prison is a testament of the power of collective work of dozens of organizations, hundreds of artists and concerned citizens,' said Tutu Alicante, director of EG Justice, which promotes human rights in Equatorial Guinea. 'But we must not forget that dozens of government opponents who are not as fortunate fill Equatorial Guinea’s jails, and that the fight against human rights violations and impunity needs to continue.'

12 March 2018