Posted On June 29, 2016 By In Uncategorized With 29 Views

Angolan court frees 17 jailed activists

Luanda, June 29, 2016 (AFP)

An Angolan court on Wednesday ordered the conditional release of 17 young activists, including a well-known rapper, three months after they were jailed for rebellion against long-serving President Jose Eduardo dos Santos.
Most of the group were arrested during a book club meeting in June last year where one of the books on the line-up was about non-violent resistance to repressive regimes.
The activists maintained throughout their trial they were peaceful campaigners for the departure of dos Santos, who has been in power since 1979 and rules the oil-rich country with an iron fist.
“Release warrants under house arrest were issued on behalf of 17 applicants to be executed from the present day,” the Supreme Court in Luanda said in a statement.
The ruling overturns sentences ranging from two to eight years in prison, which were handed down at the end of a lengthy trial in March amid complaints about political repression.
One of the accused, rapper Luaty Beirao, went on hunger strike for over a month last year to protest against his detention.
Beirao, who holds dual Portuguese and Angolan nationality, has a loyal fan base in Portugal, Angola’s former colonial ruler.
As supporters waited for the 15 men and two women to leave prison late Wednesday, defence lawyer Francisco Miguel Michel said Wednesday he was “very happy”.
“Any court concerned with the application of justice would have ruled the same,” he said, insisting his clients “committed no crime”.
– ‘Public pressure’ –
Human Rights Watch researcher Zenaida Machado told AFP the ruling was “long overdue”.
“The order should have been given immediately after the verdict in March… I am satisfied that the Supreme Court is upholding the law of the country,” she said.
Prominent independent journalist and campaigner Rafael Marques said the group should never have been arrested.
“Their release was a political decision as a result of public pressure,” he added.
In March, a Portuguese branch of the Anonymous hacking collective said it had shut down about 20 Angolan government websites in retaliation for the jailing, while at the sentencing about 30 protesters chanted for the arrest of the president.
Dos Santos said earlier this year he would stand down in 2018, but there was scepticism over whether he would do so after similar pledges in the past.
His current mandate ends at the end of next year.
Rights groups say activists in Angola, Africa’s second-largest oil producer, are being increasingly targeted by the government.
The 17 were charged with “preparatory acts of rebellion” and “criminal conspiracy”.
Earlier this month, rallies were held in several foreign cities to mark one year since their arrest.
str-kvs/bgs/ach

160629161524.bgecub8o

Tags : , , ,