Three held in Cameroon over gay activist's murder: lawyer

Three people were held for questioning Saturday in Cameroon as part of the probe into the murder of a leading gay rights activist, a lawyer said.

Activist Eric Lembembe's body was discovered in his home in the capital Yaounde earlier this month and his body showed he had been extensively tortured, said Human Rights Watch (HRW).

The three who were ordered held by criminal investigators in Yaounde are former colleagues of the activist, a lawyer close to the case told AFP on the condition of anonymity.

"We don't know what the police found," he added.

Alice Nkom, lawyer for the Lembembe family, denounced what she called a botched investigation and cast doubt on the decision to question the three.

"Since we formulated reservations over how the investigation was conducted, they want to find any 'guilty ones,'" Nkom said.

An officer close to the probe appeared to dismiss suggestions that the attack was homophobic.

"We were at the scene of the murder. We have found a certain number of clues. There will be a rapid unfolding of events and people who believe it was a homophobic act risk being surprised," he said.

Lembembe, who was executive director of the Cameroonian AIDS Foundation, was an outspoken advocate of gay rights in a country where homosexuality is punishable by up to five years in prison.

He was a "close associate of HRW," the group added.

Non-governmental organisations have regularly denounced the arrest and imprisonment of homosexuals in Cameroon, as well as the threats received by those who try to defend their rights.