Mavungo Convicted to Six Years in Jail for a Protest Never Held

Yesterday, September 14, a judge of the provincial court of Cabinda sentenced José Marcos Mavungo, a 57 year-old human rights activist, to six years of imprisonment on the charge of rebellion. His legal counsels will appeal to the Supreme Court.

Mavungo has already spent six months in jail, and will serve 5.5 more years in jail. The peaceful protest he attempted to organize on March 14 never took place, as it had been prohibited by the authorities. Nevertheless, police and security forces arrested him as he stepped out of a Catholic religious service early in the morning on the same day of the planned protest. The authorities charged him with the crime of rebellion.

Mavungo’s sentencing was a mockery of justice. It did not meet basic due process guarantees and formal trial standards required by Angolan law.  The judge Jeremias Sofrera ignored the blatant lack of evidence exposed during the trial and all allegations and complaints presented by the defense lawyers.

“Usually, the magistrates at least seek to pretend that the formal requirements for a fair trial are met,” commented Francisco Luemba, lawyer for the defense.

The judge limited his appearance to reading the questions and respective responses of the indictment, and delivering the ruling in fast motion. He left the courtroom in a rush without even signing the transcript in the presence of the defendant.
“We arrived around 9am and waited for the judge until noon. We were told he had a problem with the printer. Then he showed up, read the questions, followed by the responses. We complained and requested to read our additional allegations and questions”, Francisco Luemba said.

Another defense lawyer, Luis Nascimento, read the allegations.

“The judge read the court ruling, and left immediately afterwards. The prosecutor followed him. Later the clerk brought us the transcript to sign.  Apparently the judge signed it in his office. We didn’t accept to sign,” Luemba said.

The three days of trial sessions from August 26 to 28 produced no evidence that Mavungo committed any crime. No causal link was established between Mavungo and the fliers and explosives allegedly found by intelligence and police officers on the eve of the planned protest. A dodgy confidential military intelligence report proved to be the basis for the bogus charges against the activist.  No supporting forensic or material evidence was ever presented in court to back up the charges.
Mavungo’s unfair trial and conviction is a symptom of Angola’s broader authoritarian relapse. The regime is under the increasing influence of the military intelligence in dealing with dissident civil society activists who make use of their rights to free expression, opinion, association and assembly.