Taking action for an activist

Today marks six months since Francisco Mapanda (also known as Dago Nível Intelecto), a young Angolan activist, was imprisoned. His “crime”?  Pointing out that the trial of his friends and fellow activists, the group known as the #Angola17, was unjust.  

Amnesty itself has campaigned on the case of the Angola17 since the group was arrested and tried for daring to read a book about democracy and meet to discuss governance in Angola, where President José Eduardo dos Santos has ruled since 1979. They were declared prisoners of conscience and their case has highlighted the dangers facing activists and human rights defenders in Angola.  

Thousands of people around the world have joined us and taken action on behalf of and in solidarity with the group, whose trial was riddled with inconsistencies and errors.

Dago could be any one of us.

But because Dago lives in Angola, and is subject of the same oppressive government that saw his fellow activists charged with crimes against the state for discussing their ideas about democracy and freedom, he now is behind bars. He has been sentenced to eight months in prison. Amnesty International considers Dago to be a prisoner of conscience, punished for merely exercising his right to freedom of expression.

On 29 June 2016, Angolan authorities bowed to international pressure and conditionally released the Angola17, along with other progressive decisions related to a few other prisoners of conscience. But Dago, whose case is less well known, and who has not received the same international attention as the Angola 17, remains in prison.

Attention moved away

Sources interviewed by Amnesty International revealed that the treatment Dago is receiving in prison has changed since the departure of the Angola17.

Dago and the Angola17 were relying on food to be brought to them by family members, who leave it with prison authorities to hand over. With international attention moved away from Comarca de Viana prison, Dago experienced delays in this food being delivered to him. It was roughly handled and inspected, and often inedible by the time it reached him. His mother also stated the lawyers are not following the case as closely and carefully as they were with the Angola17.

Dago was transferred to Comarca de Caquila prison on 3 September. He was beaten by prison officials for asking that his family be informed of the prison transfer before he agreed to it.

Despite the release of the Angola17, the imprisonment and ongoing ill-treatment of Dago illustrates the ongoing shrinking of the civil society space in Angola, and the government’s continuing brutal suppression of free speech and peaceful protest. International attention and pressure cannot yet be lifted.

Like so many of us, Dago raised his voice to call out the injustice facing his fellow activists, but was punished for it. Let us continue to raise our voices in calling for his freedom too.

We are calling on Angolan authorities to quash the conviction against Dago Nível Intelecto and immediately and unconditionally release him. Take action in support of Dago now!