NEW YORK (September 28, 2017) — The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) condemns the arbitrary arrest of political cartoonist and activist Ramón Esono Ebalé, and calls on the Equatoguinean government to release him immediately.
Esono Ebalé was arrested on September 16 in Malabo, the country’s capital, while leaving a restaurant with the head of the Spanish Cooperation Agency for International Development. He was held and interrogated for three days at a police station. On September 20, a court ordered his imprisonment without bail at Equatorial Guinea’s infamous Black Beach prison.
“Cartoonists and satirists play a vital role in civil society in free countries and they’re essential in the struggle for freedom in closed societies. Using comedy and art, they hold the powerful accountable, speak hard truths about government abuse, and make bold statements on issues many are too afraid to address directly,” HRF President Thor Halvorssen said. “Esono Ebalé’s charges are politically motivated. Teodoro Obiang’s 38-year-old regime is persecuting him in order to eliminate his satirical criticism. His treatment reveals the weakness and sensitivity of the tyrant and his henchmen. Esono Ebalé should be released immediately,” added Halvorssen.
After his arrest on September 16, Esono Ebalé was handcuffed and transported to the Anti-Terrorism and Dangerous Activities Division at the Central Police Station, where a dozen agents interrogated him about his political cartoons. The agents warned him that, in order to “do politics in the country,” Esono Ebalé needed to join a political party, and that his cartoons could be considered as “slanderous to the president.” Last week, Esono Ebalé was indicted with the crimes of counterfeit and money laundering, and was sent to Black Beach prison, known as one of the world’s worst penitentiaries due to the appalling human rights violations that take place there.
The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that promotes and protects human rights globally, with a focus on closed societies.