The guilty verdict and jail sentences handed down on 17 activists yesterday (28 March) in Angola are an affront to justice that must be reversed, said Amnesty International as it called for the prisoners’ immediate and unconditional release.
The activists were condemned to jail terms ranging from two years to eight years and six months.
Amnesty has recognised the 15 men and two women as prisoners of conscience and believes that the court’s decision that each of the 17 be required to cover legal costs of approximately £220 as a mockery of justice.
Amnesty International’s Director for Southern Africa Deprose Muchena said:
“This ruling flies in the face of justice.
“The activists have been wrongly convicted in a deeply politicised trial. They are the victims of a government determined to intimidate anyone who dares to question its repressive policies.
“This unjustifiable conviction and draconian sentences against these peaceful activists who should never have been detained at all demonstrate how Angolan authorities use the criminal justice system to silence dissenting views.
“Amnesty regards these 17 activists as prisoners of conscience. They should not have spent a single day in prison and must be released immediately and unconditionally and the convictions should be quashed.”
Fifteen men were arrested and detained after attending a meeting in Angola’s capital, Luanda, last June
to discuss politics and governance concerns in the country.
The two women had been charged alongside them, but were not detained. All of the men and women were initially charged on 16 September 2015 with preparing a “rebellion” and “plotting against the president”.
On 21 March, after closing arguments, the Public Prosecutor dropped the charge of “plotting against the President” but maintained the “preparatory acts of rebellion” (actos preparatórios de rebelião) charge. He also added a new charge of “criminal conspiracy” (associação de malfeitores) which is punishable with a jail term of between two and 12 years.
One of the activists, Luaty Beirão, had additionally been charged with falsifying documents, which carries a maximum penalty of eight years’ imprisonment.