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17 young Angolan activists were arrested and are now in prison for meeting to discuss democracy.

The guilty verdict and sentences of between two and eight-and-a-half years handed down to 17 activists are an affront to justice.

They were all fined 50,000 kwanzas (approximately US$300) for court costs. Their lawyers lodged appeals that have yet to be heard.

Fifteen of the activists were arrested and detained after attending a meeting in Luanda in June 2015 to discuss politics and governance concerns in the country. Two other activists had been charged alongside them, but were not detained. The 17 activists were initially charged on 16 September 2015 with preparing a “rebellion” and “plotting against the president”.

On 21 March 2016, 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 piled on a new and much heavier charge of “criminal conspiracy” (associação de malfeitores).

Luaty Beirão was also convicted for falsification of documents and Osvaldo Caholo will be trial for theft of documents before the Military Court.

Amnesty International regards the 17 activists as prisoners of conscience. They should not have spent a single day in prison and must be released immediately and unconditionally.

Help us to call on the Angolan authorities to free the activists and to ensure that they’re not subjected to ill treatment, torture or intimidation. 

Minister of Justice and Human Rights, Rui Jorge Carneiro Mangueira

I write out of concern for the 17 activists Henrique Luaty da Silva Beirão, Manuel Chivonde (Nito Alves), Nuno Álvaro Dala, Afonso Matias (Mbanza Hanza), Nelson Dibango Mendes dos Santos, Hitler Jessy Chivonde (Hitler Samussuko), Albano Evaristo Bingobingo, Sedrick de Carvalho, Fernando António Tomás (Nicolas o Radical), Arante Kivuvu Italiano Lopes, Benedito Jeremias, José Gomes Hata (Cheick Hata), Inocêncio Antônio de Brito, Osvaldo Sérgio Correia Caholo, Domingos da Cruz, Laurinda Gouveia and Rosa Conde.

I urge you to release the 17 activists immediately and unconditionally as they are prisoners of conscience imprisoned solely for the peaceful exercise of their rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. I also ask that you end the practice of arbitrary arrests, harassment and intimidation of activists, and uphold the right to freedom of association, assembly and expression.