The Stupidity of the Angolan Regime

The world has its eyes on Luaty Beirão.

The world is beginning to understand that the Angolan regime behaves exactly like a dictatorship: it imprisons and tortures its opponents. Not satisfied with the legal farce of the cases of Luaty Beirão and other young people as well as that of José Mavungo and Rafael Marques, the regime has once again broken the law by creating yet another political prisoner.

Domingos Magno, a journalist for the site Central 7311, was detained on 16 October on charges of having committed the crime of “false pretense.” It seems Domingos Magno’s crime was to have obtained a press pass to attend the delivery of the State of the Nation speech by Vice President Manuel Vicente, at the National Assembly.

According to the authorities, Domingos is not a journalist and should not have been able to get such a pass. The oppressive security services in Angola have quite a fertile imagination when it comes to justifying illegal detentions.

The pretext for this detention is not only absurd (it would not have dignified any democracy) but it is also plainly wrong. Domingo Magno is a reporter for an online news site, and is effectively, in material terms, a journalist. In criminal law, there is a constitutional obligation to find material and concrete evidence.

In legal terms, it is important to stress that no crime has been committed based on “false pretense.” Such a crime would only have occurred if the supposed perpetrator had entered the National Assembly with a card stating that he was a journalist and if he had sat in the press section. This did not happen. There is not even an attempted crime — since Domingos Magno did not get into the National Assembly. Considering that the detainee did not even try to get into the National Assembly, there is no feasible angle by which it could be concluded that he committed a crime.

Domingos Magno has been detained because he had a press card. If he is considered a journalist or not is irrelevant because holding a professional credential cannot be the basis for detention. After all, no attempt was made at committing a crime.

Having gotten a press card could be considered a preparatory act, but preparatory acts are not punishable nor do they justify preventive detention.

Recently, Josephine Witt, a German activist, got into a ECB (European Central Bank) conference and threw carnival confetti at Mario Draghi, the president. Josephine said she waited at the door of the ECB and that to gain access all she had to do was lie a bit that she worked as a journalist for Vice magazine.

Although the security detained her, she was freed without any charges. In Angola, Domingos Magno did not get into the National Assembly (and could have managed to have done so rightfully since the sessions are public) and he did not throw carnival confetti at Manuel Vicente. There is absolutely no justification for his continued detention.

On its part, the Angolan regime gets irritated whenever there is criticism from Europe. There is indeed a reason for the regime to be upset; therefore, it should not act in a way that can result in criticisms and it has to respect fundamental rights.

It is difficult to understand the attitude of the Angolan government when it comes to the recent detentions and increased repression of critics. During the First World War, it was said of the British army that it was composed of lions being led by donkeys. Could this be the case in Angola?