Angola: Conviction of 17 peaceful activists an affront to justice

The guilty verdict and sentences of between two and eight-and-a-half years handed down to 17 activists on 28 March 2016 by the Luanda Provincial Tribunal are an affront to justice that must be reversed, said Amnesty International as it called for their immediate and unconditional release as prisoners of conscience.

Angolan authorities use the criminal justice system to silence dissenting views.
Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for Southern Africa

“The 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. This ruling flies in the face of justice,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for Southern Africa.

“The activists have been wrongly convicted in a deeply politicized trial. They are the victims of a government determined to intimidate anyone who dares to question its repressive policies.”

The organisation also believes that the court’s decision that each of the 17 activists must cover legal costs of approximately 315 US Dollars is a mockery of justice.

The activists have been wrongly convicted in a deeply politicized trial.
Deprose Muchena

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 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 of falsification of documents which carry a maximum penalty of eight years imprisonment.

“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 and the convictions should be quashed,” said Deprose Muchena.