CASA-CE Candidate Detained
Dimacha da Conceição André, a CASA-CE parliamentary candidate in Friday’s election in Angola, has been under detention since Thursday, August 30, after being arrested at a demonstration outside the National Electoral Commission (CNE) headquarters in Maianga, Luanda. She was one of eight demonstrators detained by police, along with six passersby. Of the 14 detainees, 13 were still in custody on Saturday night.
About 20 demonstrators marched on Thursday afternoon to demand that the party’s electoral observers receive accreditation. Just over 100 metres from the CNE building, police officers fired live ammunition to disperse the demonstrators and then began beating them with batons.
The demonstrators tied their hands together with yellow ribbons, the party colour.
“In order to avoid them accusing us of acts of violence, to make it impossible for us to be accused of throwing stones at the authorities, we tied up our hands and marched like that,” explained Rafael Aguiar, CASA-CE’s youth leader and a parliamentary candidate. Aguiar was the only one of the 14 detainees to be freed in the early hours of Friday morning.
Aguiar said members of the Rapid Intervention Police (PIR, in Portuguese ) identified him as the leader of the demonstration and immediately began hitting him on the head with the butts of their rifles
“One of the attackers was a student of mine in 2007 at the PIR headquarters. He asked me, ‘you too Professor?’ I replied that I was here [at the demonstration] to defend peace and democracy. I asked how there could be democracy without a fair election.”
Aguiar explained how “the attacker, my ex-pupil, hit me twice in the eye. They [the police officers] threw me to the ground, stamped on me and kicked me in the head and all over my body until I was unconscious.”
Aguiar added that the passersby – three men and three women – had had “the bad luck” to be walking among the demonstrators when the police attacked.
According to Aguiar, the police tried to extract a false confession in exchange for the release of the men.
“The three young men, after being beaten and detained, were instructed by the police to state publicly that they had been ordered by CASA-CE to start riots and throw stones at the authorities,” Aguiar said.
When the men refused to do so, they were transferred from the 4th Police Unit where they were being held, to a cell at the Provincial Criminal Investigation Directorate (DPIC), shared the cell with the nine men who were also detained at the demonstration.
Dimacha da Conceição André, the detained parliamentary candidate, managed to send a message to Maka Angola with the details of the three female passersby who were detained with her. “Rita Maria da Costa, 21, was on her way to the CNE to fetch her accreditation to be a polling officer. Maria Pimpão, 25, was on her way to deliver money to someone. Maguí Sambo, 28, was going shopping.”
She added that the women had not suffered any violence and had not been interrogated. “We are still in detention with no information,” she said.
At the end of Thursday afternoon, about 100 young CASA-CE members gathered near the CNE building to demand the release of the detainees. Members of the Dog Unit and Rapid Intervention Police arrived to reinforce the police from the 4th Unit who were already at the scene.
Officers from the National Police eased the tensions by offering to free the remaining detainees, and the youths dispersed voluntarily.
Among the detainees is Salupeto Pena, the son of the late UNITA officer of the same name, who according to Aguiar was tortured while in custody. Pena, who had joined CASE-CE, took part in the protest to demand accreditation as a party observer. “Because Salupeto protested against his detention, he was taken from his cell and tortured by the police in the early hours of September 1,” Aguiar said.
At about 3 am, an officer took Rafael Aguiar from his cell, confirmed his identity, and took him away in a car with two other officers. “I wanted to know where they were taking me. They just told me not to be afraid. They took me home,” Aguiar said.
Rafael Aguiar arrived home with bruises covering his body, his clothes torn to shreds. The police officers had tattered his suit and his pants looked like pieces of ragged cloth.
CASA-CE vice-chairman Alexandre Sebastião, who is a lawyer, has for the past two days been trying to make contact with the other detainees to attempt to provide themwith legal assistance. “They are not even allowing their families to visit them, and they are not granting them the right to a lawyer, supposedly on orders from the highest levels of government,” Sebastião said.
The Angolan Constitution grants detainees the right to contact their families and lawyers to inform them of their detention, as well as the right to legal advice.
“We are seeing a violation of human rights,” Alexandre Sebastião said. He said the police only allowed family members to leave food and water for the detainees at the entrance of DPIC, and complained that some of the food had not reached the prisoners as intended. In mid-afternoon on September 1, CASA-CE chairman Abel Chivukuvuku tried in vain to contact party members who were among the detained.
Sebastião also pointed out that the Law on General Elections grants immunity to parliamentary candidates during the electoral campaign. According to the referred law, such immunities can only be waived unless they are caught in the act of a serious crime carrying a prison sentence of more than two years, or for a crime punishable by a prison sentence greater than eight years.
Also among the detained demonstrators was Pandita Nehru, who has been a prominent figure in the organization of recent youth demonstrations in Luanda calling for the dismissal of president José Eduardo dos Santos. Pandita Nehru became a symbol of police repression when, on May 25, police detained him and six others for several hours. He was detained for a second time on August 20 when he was trying to organise a press conference condemning violence against demonstrators. Two weeks later, on 3 September, he was seized at Luanda’s Largo da Independência and taken to a deserted spot where he was subjected to psychological torture including a mock execution, and offered bribes to cease his political activity.
Attempts by Maka Angola to obtain an official statement from the provincial commander of the National Police, Nestor Goubel, were unsuccessful.