Mavungo: Candidate for 12 Years a Prisoner

On August 28, prosecutor António Nito, asked the court in the Angolan province of Cabinda to convict the human rights activist José Marcos Mavungo to 12 years of imprisonment on the charge of inciting rebellion – the maximum penalty allowed by law for this crime. The sentencing is scheduled for September 16.

Mavungo was arrested without a warrant on March 14 when he was leaving morning mass. The protest against bad governance and human rights violations in Cabinda he had organized was banned by the government and did not take place.
During the three days of hearings, no evidence was presented that Mavungo committed any crime. The trial revealed in more detail how the military intelligence fabricated his case and provided the central script for the proceedings.

An intelligence file, referred to in Mavungo’s indictment, claims that intelligence officials found explosives and fliers in the streets on the eve of the planned protest.

The confidential report was read at court at the request by the defense. Journalists were prevented from attending the hearings. Maka Angola had access to the final section of the report.

In its conclusion, the intelligence report calls on the police and criminal investigation to take “legal measures” not only against the “promotors of the demonstration”, but also against former leaders of the now disbanded civic association of Cabinda, Mpalabanda.

The report described the alleged crimes as “attempted subversive and terrorist acts” by “citizens who use their constitutional rights with illicit, illegitimate and illegal aims, namely the right to assembly and demonstration, to contribute to destroy the constitutionally established rule of law.”

Mavungo was deputy president of Mpalabanda. Before the government banned the association in 2006, it produced two human rights reports highlighting security force abuses in Cabinda. During the hearings, the prosecutor repeatedly referred to Mpalabanda as “a movement of subversive character.”

Questioned by Mavungo’s legal counsels, Captain Miguel Rufino Jamba, the military intelligence officer who signed the report, was unable to explain how he came to the conclusion that Mavungo had anything to do with the explosives and fliers. The official eventually admitted that the regional commander of the Angolan Armed Forces edited the report and introduced the conclusions and orders.

Francisco Luemba, one of the activist’s defense lawyers, described how he questioned the intelligence official:
“I asked the captain if he knew Mavungo and he said he didn’t. I asked him how he could know that Mavungo was connected with the explosives and fliers. He said he didn’t know. Finally the captain said that he didn’t write this, that these orders were imposed on him by the commander of the Angolan Armed Forces, and he was obliged to sign.”

The alleged material evidence of the crime, the fliers and explosives, were not exhibited at court, nor was any forensic evidence presented. The intelligence officials’ allegation they spotted suspicious individuals at 300 meters at night, in a neighborhood without electricity, remains dubious. A re-enactment in loco of the intelligence operation, requested by the defense, took place in a different neighborhood, and not as in the same setting as reported in the file. Arão Bula Tempo, also a legal counsel of Mavungo, qualified the re-enactment as “ridiculous.”

Domingos João Baptista, the municipal police commander, testified in court that he arrested Mavungo on his own decision, as a “preventive measure” to enforce the ban on the protest. He said police agents had found pamphlets inciting violence that were circulating on the eve of the planned protest. On March 14, police arrested Mavungo without a warrant when he was leaving morning mass.

However, nobody except the police agents testified to having seen any of the fliers circulating in the night before the aborted protest.

The case against Mavungo is a disturbing demonstration of travesty of justice in Angola. It shows that the military and intelligence services are the driving force in the prosecution of human rights and protest activists in Angola. By demanding the maximum penalty for Mavungo, the prosecutor sanctioned fabricated charges and discarded any reasonable doubt created by the presentation of the facts during the trial.