Judge orders release of Angolan activists charged with coup


President, Jose Eduardo dos Santos

AN Angolan judge has ordered the release from prison, fifteen young Angolan activists who had been standing trial on charges of plotting to overthrow the country’s President, Jose Eduardo dos Santos.

The judge however placed freed the activists under house arrest, with a verdict in their trial on charges of “rebellion and coup attempt” due on January 14.
“The accused will now go to Sao Paulo Prison where they have been held… before returning to their homes,” judge Januario Domingos said before postponing the trial until January 11.

In total 17 activists, including prominent rapper Luaty Beirao, students, journalists and even members of the military; were arrested on June 20 at a youth movement gathering to demand the departure of dos Santos, who has been in power since 1979.

The group, including two activists who had already been released from prison had been on trial since November. The activists deny the charges, but face jail terms of up to 12 years if found guilty.

They were picked up during a book-reading club meeting where one of the books on the line-up was about non-violent resistance to repressive regimes.

When the trial opened on November 16, the mostly young activists, aged between 19 and 33, complained to the court about the poor and unsanitary prison conditions under which they were held.

AFP quoted Amnesty International saying, their release from detention was “encouraging, but falls far short of the unconditional release that they should be immediately granted.”
About a week ago four of the activists, including the rapper went on a hunger strike in protest over the slow pace of their trial.

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