31. März 2016 – RAN 07/16
Der internationale PEN ist besorgt über die Nachricht, dass 17 angolanische Aktivisten, Mitglieder des „Luanda Buch Clubs“, am Montag (28. März 2016) zu Haftstrafen zwischen zwei und acht Jahren und einer Geldstrafe von umgerechnet knapp 275.000 Euro verurteilt wurden wegen der angeblichen „Vorbereitung einer Rebellion“ und „krimineller Verschwörung“. Eine frühere Anklage wegen der angeblichen „Vorbereitung eines Putschversuchs gegen den Präsidenten“ war am 21. März von der Staatsanwaltschaft fallengelassen worden.
Die Aktivisten waren in einer Buchhandlung in der Haupstadt Luanda zusammengekommen, um Domingos da Cruz‘ unveröffentlichtes Manuskript „Werkzeuge zur Zerschlagung einer Diktatur und zur Verhinderung einer neuen Diktatur – Politische Philosophie für die Befreiung Angolas“ zu lesen, eine Adaption des Buchs des US-Akademikers Gene Sharp: „Von der Diktatur zur Demokratie: Ein Leitfaden für die Befreiung“. Sharps Buch wird als Blaupause für gewaltfreien Widerstand gegen repessive Regime beschrieben, das Treffen zur Diskussion über das Buch wurde von der angolanischen Regierung als Vorbereitung für einen Putsch gewertet.
Unter den 17 Aktivisten sind Schriftsteller, Journalisten und der Universitätsdozent Domingos da Cruz (Verfasser des angesprochenen Manuskripts), der Journalist und Jurastudent Sedrick de Caravlho (Designer und Hersteller des Buchs), sowie der Universitätsdozent Nuno Alvaro Dala (einer der Dozenten des Seminars bzw. der Diskussionsrunden). Ebenfalls festgenommen wurden der Rapper Luaty Beirão, H. Jessy Chiconde (auch ein Student) und der Lehrer José Hata. Sowohl die Staatsanwaltschaft als auch die Verteidigungsanwälte haben bereits bekanntgegeben, dass sie den Urteilsspruch und die Strafen anfechten wollen.
Der internationale PEN ruft die angolanischen Behörden dazu auf, die Schriftsteller und Aktivisten unverzüglich und bedingungslos freizulassen und deren Verurteilungen aufzuheben. Jeder Angolaner besitzt das Recht, seine politischen Ansichten frei zu äußern und auf friedliche Art und Weise zu demonstrieren, sei es im Rahmen von Buch-Club-Diskussionen oder bei anderen Gelegenheiten, und Restriktionen dagegen stellen eine Verletzung des Rechts auf Meinungs- und Versammlungsfreiheit dar.
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Bitte schreiben Sie Protestbriefe:
- Drücken Sie Ihre Sorge über die Verurteilung und die Bestrafung von Domingos da Cruz, Sedrick de Caravlho, Nuno Alvaro Dala, Luaty Beirão, H. Jessy Chiconde, José Hata und den anderen Aktivisten aus;
- Rufen Sie die angolanischen Behörden dazu auf, die Verurteilungen von Domingos da Cruz, Sedrick de Caravlho, Nuno Alvaro Dala, Luaty Beirão, H. Jessy Chiconde, José Hata und den anderen Aktivisten aufzuheben.
- Fordern Sie die unverzügliche und bedingungslose Freilassung der genannten und anderer Aktivisten. Berufen Sie sich dabei auf Artikel 19 des UN-Zivilpakts, zu dessen Unterzeichnern Angola zählt.
Schreiben Sie an:
S.E. den Botschafter der Republik Angola
Herrn Alberto Correia Neto
Botschaft der Republik Angola
botschaft [at] botschaftangola [dot] de
Hintergrund (bereitgestellt vom internationalen PEN)
Thirteen of the activists were arrested on 20 June 2015 at a book store in the capital Luanda, where they had gathered to read Domingos da Cruz’s unpublished manuscript Tools to Destroy a Dictatorship and Avoiding a New Dictatorship – Political Philosophy for the Liberation of Angola, an adaptation of US academic Gene Sharp’s book From Dictatorship to Democracy: A Conceptual Framework for Liberation. Sharp’s book is described as a blueprint for non-violent resistance to repressive regimes, and this meeting to discuss the book was considered by the authorities to be a preliminary act to a coup.
Domingo da Cruz had been due to attend the meeting but did not; he was arrested the following day on 21 June 2015. Osvaldo Caholo was arrested on 24 June 2015. Two others were arrested later in connection with the case, but they were not detained.
On 22 June police forces searched the houses of the activists and confiscated computers, phones, photos, diaries, credit cards and copies of Domingo da Cruz’s book. The 15 were initially accused of ‘preparing acts aimed at disrupting public order and security in the country’. It was later reported that they were charged with ‘rebellion’, ‘attempted coup d’état’ and ‘crimes against national security’. The case was based on the Special Punishment of Preliminary Acts to a Coup law (Act n. 23/10, 3rd December). Actions defined under the Act include the purchase of arms, ammunition and the organisation of private armies. In this case the meetings to discuss a book about peaceful transition to democracy were considered as preparatory measures. PEN International considers this to be an unjustifiable interpretation of the law and a violation of the right to freedom of expression and association.
Between June and December 2015, 15 of the activists were in jail. A few months after their imprisonment without charge, the 15 were eventually brought to trial. Their trial started on 16 November 2015 and was originally held in secret, in contravention of article 407 of the Angolan Code of Criminal Procedure which provides as a general rule that trials are subject to publicity. A secret trial can only happen in extreme situations.
Article 414 of the Code states that hearings must be continuous and uninterrupted, except when absolutely necessary. However, the trial was marred by irregularities including constant postponements, suspensions and delays, allegedly due to the judicial noticing of witnesses. Domingos da Cruz and three other defendants initiated a hunger strike on 10 December 2015 in protest against the ongoing delays of the trial. On 14 December 2015, Carvalho published a letter where he exposed the conditions of his detention and suggested that the trial held on 16 November 2015 was a sham. He said he had been held in solitary confinement for around 2,000 hours without the possibility of seeing sunlight. He went on hunger strike and on 15 December 2015 he attempted suicide but was rescued by prison guards. The same day the Luanda Provincial Tribunal approved the demand of the public prosecutor to transfer the activists to house arrest, which they were.
The reasons for keeping the activists under house arrest were not clear. The decision made by the judge to did not give any justification, beyond a literal transcription of the law. This runs contrary to the law concerning precautionary measures (Act n. 25/15, 18th December), Articles 18 and 19 of which state that reasons for house arrest or pretrial detention must be specified and specifically justified concerning each individual, however this did not happen in this case.
In March 2016, two of the 15 activists were sent back to jail through extra summary trials. The 19-year-old university student Nito Alves complained that the trial was a farce, and was sent back to prison for contempt of court. University lecturer Nuno Álvaro Dala, who was ill, refused to return to court while being denied medical care, and the judge also sent him back to jail.
The trial, widely condemned as politically motivated by human rights organisation around the world, was reported by journalists as farcical – the presiding judge allowed the state prosecutor to wear a hairpiece that obscured half her face, ordered a public reading in full of the 200-page unpublished book written by defendant Domingos da Cruz and issued witness summonses by publishing names in the state-owned newspaper Jornal de Angola.
According to reports, in her closing remarks, the state prosecutor told the court that the weekly meetings of the activists between May and June 2015 were not held just to study the book but that they were plotting to carry out acts of rebellion and as such should be found guilty of ‘criminal conspiracy’ and ‘preparatory acts of rebellion’. According to reports, da Cruz was sentenced to eight-and- a-half years in prison for ‘leading the criminal association’. Beirão was sentenced to five-and-a-half years for ‘falsifying documents’. The others all received prison sentences ranging from two years to four- and-a-half years.
Freedom of expression in Angola is severely restricted. Laws such as criminal defamation are used to silence critics, such as prominent journalist and human rights defender Rafael Marques de Morais who was charged with criminal defamation in relation to his 2011 book Blood Diamonds: Torture and Corruption in Angola which detailed killings and torture, perpetrated by private security guards working for mining companies in Angola’s diamond fields. It also levelled responsibility for abuses at several generals who owned the mines, for failing to stop the abuses. Following publication, the generals lodged a defamation complaint against him. An appeal is still pending at the Supreme Court.
Angola has persecuted other journalists and activists over the years, including Domingos da Cruz who had previously been arrested in 2013 and put on trial accused of inciting civil disobedience because of a text he published that was critical of the President.
In 2013, Manuel Nito Alves was jailed for two months for printing t-shirts that carried a slogan calling President José Eduardo dos Santos a ‘disgusting dictator.’