Angola – Activists Sentenced

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A trial of young activists concludes with the defendants receiving lengthy prison terms.

A group of 17 protestors, including well-known Angolan rapper Luaty Beirao, were sentenced by an Angolan court on March 27th to between two and eight years in jail, following a trial that has garnered substantial international attention.

The activists are charged with plotting to overthrow President Jose Eduardo dos Santos and have been in prison since June 2015, when they were arrested at a bookclub discussing non-violent resistance.

13 out of the 17 activists were detained on June 20th 2015, at the book club which was discussing Gene Sharp‘s 1993 book, “From Dictatorship to Democracy“, about non-violent resistance in repressive regimes. While in detention, they were subjected to abuse, and during nine months in custody one tried to commit suicide.

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The Guardian

A number of the detainees have been on hunger strike; Beirao had undertaken a month long hunger strike in protest against the unfair trial and detention. Beirao was sentenced to five years for “rebellion against the president of the republic, criminal association and falsifying documents,” reported Deutschewelle.

The longest sentence was handed out to the so-called leader of the group journalist Domingos da Cruz, the author of an unpublished work based on Gene Sharp’s writing, who was sentenced to eight and a half years in prison.

The other activists were; Nuno Dala, Sedrick de Carvalho, Nito Alves, Inocêncio de Brito, Laurinda Gouveia, Fernando António Tomás, Afonso Matias “Mbanza Hamza”, Osvaldo Caholo, Arante Kivuvu, Albano Evaristo Bingobingo, Nelson Dibango, Hitler Jessy Chiconde and José Gomes Hata, who were given four and half year prison terms, while Rosa Conde and Jeremias Benedito were handed sentences of two years and three months. All are required to pay a Kwanza (K) 50,000 fine, reported MAKA Angola.

One other activist, Francisco Mapanda, faces a further hearing for contempt of court after shouting “this judgement is a joke”, in the courtroom.

Journalist Rafael de Marques, who has been targeted by the Angolan regime for his book on diamond mining corruption in the country, commented that “the Angolan regime urgently needs to find an enemy to distract citizens from society’s main problems.”

No international observers were allowed to attend the trial. The prosecution was also unable to produce all 70 witnesses it had announced would prove that the young actvists were plotting a rebellion, reported Deutschewelle.

Researcher for Human Rights Watch (HRW), for Angola and Mozambique, Zenaida Machado said “it is an extremely ridiculous sentence and we do not know what it is based on because, during the months in which we were attending the trial, no proof whatsoever was presented in court to justify such harsh penalties.”

Rights group Amnesty International collected over 38,000 signatures in protest against the detention.

Dos Santos has been ruling Angola for more than 36 years, since 1979, just four years after independence. He has repeatedly claimed that he would step down – the most recent declaration for 2018 – but many are sceptical that he will stand by his claims. Many accusations of corruption have been levelled at Dos Santos, with as as much as 70% of the population in considerable poverty despite vast mineral revenues.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin

ANGOLA: Trials for Political Dissent (Free to Read)
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.52, Issue.12, Pp.20822B–20823A

ANGOLA: Paranoid Political Climate
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.52, Issue.11, Pp. 20784C–20785A

ANGOLA: Increasing Repression
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.52, Issue.8, Pp.20679B–20679C

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