Detainees Plead with Fellow Prisoner to End Hunger Strike
After visiting the fourteen young Angolan activists under detention, the activist Rafael Marques says that they have asked Luaty Beirão to end his hunger strike because “they need him alive” to ” continue with the struggle.”
Luaty Beirão, the 33 year old Angolan musician is on the thirty-sixth (36) day of a hunger strike. He is protesting against the detention in June of a group of activists who have since been accused of trying to overthrow the president.
“They are asking for Luaty to return to them alive and healthy; they look up to him as a respected moral leader,” said the activist Rafael Marques to Lusa. Marques had visited the fourteen prisoners at the São Paulo prison in Luanda; he then took the message over to Luaty Beirão who has been admitted into a clinic in the Angolan capital.
Rafael Marques told Lusa that he took messages from the fourteen to Luaty Beirão “so that he, without any pressure, will listen to the voice of his companions and prison colleagues in the cause he has been fighting for, to know what they think ought to be the next steps.”
Rafael Marques managed to get an authorization to visit all the prisoners “for humanitarian reasons.”
” As a human rights defender, I had to listen to the detainees, to know what they thought of the hunger strike. Luaty wants to return to them and to continue with the hunger strike. I listened to them and took notes; they also wrote down their positions themselves and I took the opinion of each of them to Luaty,” said the author of Blood Diamonds: Torture and Corruption in Angola when contacted by telephone from Lisbon.
Rafael Marques added that with the exception of Nelson Dibango who wrote, “if Luaty continues with the hunger strike he too will resume his hunger strike” which had lasted ten days, “all were agreed that Luaty should stop his hunger strike and said that if they could, they would have gone down on their knees” for Luaty to give up. “This is because they need him healthy and able to help the group come up with strategies.”
” We are not dealing with people who are applying pressure for him to end the hunger strike. We are talking about people with whom he shares ideals; people for whom he has suffered and continues suffering — that is, these brave young people still under detention,” said Rafael Marques who also has a case in the Angolan court system.
The Angolan authorities allowed the journalist and activist to talk to the detainees, including Luaty Beirão, who is at Girassol clinic in Luanda. Beirão said on Wednesday that he hoped to continue his hunger strike at the São Paulo Prison Hospital; this is where fourteen of his companions, whom Amnesty International considers to be “Prisoners of Conscience” are being held now.
“Due to humanitarian reasons, I was allowed to speak to all the detainees to know the security aspects as well as the conditions under which they are being held. It is worth acknowledging this gesture, and we also have to continue working to realize that though at times we have diametrically opposed views of matters, at the end of the day we are dealing with the right to life,” concluded Rafael Marques.
*Translated and updated by MakaAngola