Dos Santos Picture Caused Arrest

In an expedited trial on Tuesday, Judge Josefina Pedro acquitted Manuel de Vitória Pereira, a senior official of the Bloco Democrático party, in the Luanda Police Court.

Pereira had been arrested in his home neighbourhood on 19 September while distributing a party newsletter that had been published in July. An anti-government demonstration was taking place the same day on nearby Largo de Independência (Independence Square), but Pereira was detained alone, while walking in the opposite direction from where the demonstrators were supposed to gather three hours after his arrest.

When the National Police spokesman, Commissioner Aristófanes dos Santos, refered to Pereira’s arrest, he referred to him only as “a member of the opposition” as if to prove that he was part of the demonstration.

Meanwhile, the policeman who had arrested Pereira stated in court that he had made the arrest only because he had found a young man carrying one of the newsletters in his hand near Largo de Independência.

“I saw Comrade President’s face [on the pamphlet] and I said ‘this is negative’!” the policeman said.

The pamphlet refers to President José Eduardo dos Santos as “the dictator of the Cidade Alta,” the Cidade Alta being the location of the presidential palace in Luanda. The text is entitled “Monologue with the Youth,” a reference to the president’s much-publicised recent Youth Dialogue initiative. The photo is the one used in the 2012 electoral campaign, even though it is 20 years old. In place of Dos Santos’s preferred epithet of “the architect of peace”, the pamphlet calls him “the architect of hunger” in reference to this year’s famine in southern Angola.

But a plainclothes officer was the first to confront and detain Pereira. He had with him a bag with more than 140 four-page A4 size newsletters.

Pereira explained in court that when the plainclothes officer confronted him, he thought he was a thief. When he resisted, the uniformed officer, who was testifying in court, joined his plainclothes colleague to take Pereira into custody.

According to defence lawyer Luís Nascimento, “it could have been a case of ignorance on the part of the policeman. But the problem is that his bosses took the case to court. It was therefore a premeditated action.”

While Pereira was being held in custody at the Provincial Criminal Investigation Department, for several hours, and despite repeated requests, National Police officers refused to allow him to take his insulin injection which his family had brought for him, and which he needs to control his diabetes. Pereira told Maka Angola that the officials would only allow him to receive assistance when “I had already started to present a complicated clinical condition”.

Nascimento concluded, “since 1992 [when a new Constitutional law abolished the one party system] the police have been flouting the law, they have no respect and they are in breach of the Constitution. We are living in a police state.”