Cameroon’s main opposition leader, Maurice Kamto, was charged in a military court with rebellion and seven other offences, indictments that could carry the death penalty, his lawyers said.
Kamto lost what he says was a fraudulent presidential election in October and was detained last month after organising a rally against long-serving President Paul Biya.
Security services broke up the rally with live fire, shooting and wounding six people and put down other anti-Biya protests across the country, including Douala and the capital Yaounde, since the vote.
There was no immediate comment from Kamto’s party and supporters whether the charges would trigger further demonstrations.
“The investigating judges charged Maurice Kamto at the military tribunal,” his lawyer Christopher Ndong told Reuters. “This is not a judicial matter. This is politics.”
Another of his lawyers, Emmanuel Simh, told Reuters the charges he faces include: “hostility against the homeland, incitement to insurrection, offence against the president of the republic, destruction of public buildings and goods.”
Twenty-two members of his Cameroon Renaissance Movement (MRC) face trial for the same charges, lawyers said.
Cameroon authorities could not immediately be reached for comment. Rights groups accuse Biya (85) of silencing opposition voices throughout his 36 year rule of the central African cocoa and oil exporter – charges he denies.
Unrest is historically rare in Cameroon and when it happens it tends to be quelled with force.
Protests erupted in its troubled western Anglophone region more than two years ago and after they were repressed they morphed into a low level rebellion.
The United States said it would withhold some military aid over allegations of human rights violations while France said its defence co-operation with Cameroon would continue.