The Regime Turnaround on the Release of 15 Political Prisoners
There are slightly encouraging signs that the Angolan government is coming to terms with the damage it has inflicted upon itself by investing all its powers in making up evidence to prove that the detained 15 young activists were preparing acts of rebellion and attempting to assassinate President Dos Santos, by plotting to burn tires in the presidential palace. Sadly, it has taken extreme gestures such as Sedrick de Carvalho, one of the accused, threatening to commit suicide, for common sense to prevail.
The attorney general, Army General João Maria de Sousa, announced yesterday, during a press conference, that the prosecution appealed to the judge to end the 177 days pre-trial detention of the youths, and replace it with house arrest, under the new Law on Preventive Measures on Penal Processes.
Defense lawyer David Mendes told the Portuguese news agency Lusa, that the measure is illegal “because the law is not valid yet.”
” There is an existing law upon which the prosecution could base its appeal, rather than using a law which has not yet come into effect.” Worse, for us, is the fact that the court accepted the prosecution’s appeal based on a law that is not yet operational,” said David Mendes. The law only comes into effect next Friday, three days after the submission was made under it.
Meanwhile, Attorney General João Maria de Sousa, claimed that such a measure had to be taken for the sake of the prisoners. “Ladies and gentlemen, we have to take into account that for a detainee, one day more in jail seems like an eternity, and that is why they will be released on Friday and not on Monday, which is a great benefit”, he said.
Right after the arrests of the youths between June 20-24, the attorney general held a press conference to announce that the youths were caught red-handed plotting a coup. The president followed suit with a speech in which he claimed the youths had set in motion a plan to overthrow him. From that point onwards, the intelligence services, the government, the state media, and the judiciary banded together to follow the president and the attorney general’s public narrative.
“ We will continue to fight for their acquittal; this is a step which should have been taken before the case even came to court”, stressed another defense lawyer, Walter Tondela.
In its proposal, the prosecution established that the 15 accused “are forbidden from having any contact with each other or with members of the purported National Salvation Government.”
This government, as it has become evident, was set up last May, by lawyer Albano Pedro, and his friends on Facebook, as a joke, which had nothing to do with the youths.
Such was the joke that Albano Pedro and his friends chose as president the leader of the sect Light of the Day, José Julino Kalupeteka, who has been detained since April, after a government massacre of his pilgrims in Huambo province. He appointed himself as speaker of the National Assembly.
Although Albano Pedro has repeatedly spoken in public and written about how he came up with the government of National Salvation to entertain a discussion with his Facebook followers, the authorities have not questioned him on the subject.
This measure presents a major problem for the detainees and their defense. Lawyer David Mendes, who represents four of the youths, is the chosen chief justice of the Constitutional Court in the National Salvation Government, which makes no separation of powers. Theoretically, he would not be able to confer with his clients.
Rapper Luaty Beirão, one of the 15 detainees, was nominated by the Facebookers as Attorney General, and under the new measures he is not allowed to contact himself. The same applies to prisoners Afonso Matias “Mbanza Hamza”, appointed as Deputy Minister of Culture; journalist and university lecturer Domingos da Cruz, as the inspector-general of the State, and Hitler Chiconde, as the provincial governor of Moxico.
There is also the case of the two female activists who are on trial, but have remained free. Under the judge’s restrictions, 28 year-old Rosa Conde is not allowed to contact her partner, Pedro Teca, with whom she lives and is soon to have a child. Pedro Teca is also a member of the joke salvation government.