The trial of three English-speaking protesters facing the death penalty opened at a military court in Cameroon on Monday in a case that has exposed national divisions and stoked opposition to Francophone President Paul Biya.
Since October, people in Cameroon's two western English-speaking regions have joined protests against what they say is their marginalization by the French-speaking majority under Biya's 35-year rule.
At least six protesters have been shot dead and hundreds others arrested during the rare challenge to state authority, prompting criticism from human rights groups and concern from the African Union.
The three civil society figures and political activists -- Felix Agbor Balla, Fontem Aforteka'a Neba and Mancho Bibixy -- pleaded not guilty in a court in the capital Yaounde as dozens of security officials stood guard.
They face multiple charges including complicity in hostility against the homeland, secession and civil war, and campaigning for federalism following their involvement in the English regions' protests.