March 31, 2016
Angolan activist and rapper—and his book club—sentenced to prison
by Julia Fleischaker
Seventeen activists in Angola have been sentenced to prison after their 2015 arrests for participating in a peaceful book club discussion.
The Guardian reports:
A court in Angola has jailed 17 young activists, some for more than eight years, for rebelling against the government of José Eduardo dos Santos, after they organised a reading of a US academic’s book.
The activists were arrested in the capital, Luanda, last June after organising the reading of From Dictatorship to Democracy: A Conceptual Framework for Liberation, by Gene Sharp. The book’s blurb describes it as “a blueprint for non-violent resistance to repressive regimes”.
They were charged with acts of rebellion, planning mass action of civil disobedience in Luanda and producing fake passports, among other charges. Their sentences ranged from two years and three months to eight years and six months.
One of the dissidents is rapper and activist Luaty Beirao, who received a sentence of five and a half years. According to Amnesty International, Angolan police “carried out searches without warrants and seized computers, documents, and cameras from homes of some of the people they suspected of being involved with the meeting.” Beirao and other members of the group went on a hunger strike to protest their detention; they also point out that “family members, the media, diplomatic representatives, independent observers and the general public have been barred from attending the trial.”
Jose Eduardo dos Santos has been the president of Angola since 1979, and there is increasing anger over government corruption, lack of judicial independence, and a crumbling economy. Deutsche Welle quotes Angolan journalist Rafael Marques as saying the trial was obviously politically motivated. “It seems that the Angolan regime urgently needs to find an enemy to distract citizens from society’s main problems.” Amnesty’s Teresa Pina told the newspaper that this case is just the latest in “a long history of punishing dissent in Angola.”
Julia Fleischaker is a former director of marketing and publicity at Melville House.