More than 100 people have been arrested during several weeks of peaceful protests against the marginalization of the English-speaking minority in Cameroon, Amnesty International said Thursday.
"It's an extremely worrying situation. The response of the security forces has been heavy-handed," Amnesty researcher Stephen Cockburn said.
Earlier this week, three protest leaders appeared in court, pleading not guilty to charges of terrorism and inciting civil war, which are punishable by death in Cameroon.
The case was postponed to March 23.
Protests started in October when residents of Cameroon's two English-speaking provinces began to demonstrate against the government making less money available to them than to French-speaking areas.
In December, security forces killed five unarmed protesters in the northern city of Bamenda.
Dozens have been injured during the demonstrations with police using "excessive and unnecessary force," according to Amnesty.
Since mid-January, authorities have shut down the internet in the two English-speaking provinces - North-west and South-west - in an attempt to stop the leaders from organizing further protests.
Cameroon's regions were divided among French and British colonial powers until they combined to form the Republic of Cameroon in 1961.
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