The trial of 15 Angolan activists charged with “rebellion and a coup attempt” opens Monday in Luanda.
They activists are also charged with taking weekly training sessions since May ahead of the alleged attack aimed at the country’s president. The accused were arrested on June 20 and formally charged on September 16 this year, but their lawyers were only officially informed of the charges on September 30.
They were held in pre-trial detention for longer than the 90 days permitted by law.
According to their lawyers, they were kept in solitary confinement for several days and were subjected to ill-treatment.
An adjournment of the trial sought by the lawyers was denied by the authorities.
“How is it possible to have a fair trial since we do not know what is there?” posed lawyer Michel Francisco in reference to complaints of limited access to the evidence the prosecution is relying on in the case.
According to sources in Luanda the evidence is laid out in a 1,500-page document together with videos and tapes.
David Mendes, another lawyer who is defending two of the activists, said they were going “blindly to trial” because of being kept in the dark about the cases.
On Thursday, Amnesty International issued a statement on Angola saying: “Many human rights defenders are suffering in jail merely for asking for accountability and respect for human rights. The state is using the police and the judiciary to entrench fear and to silence critical voices”.
Angola’s President José Eduardo dos Santos, 73, has been in power for the last 36 years.
Those who have challenged his government have been subjected to extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances, arbitrary arrests and torture by state security forces, Amnesty International alleged.
Meanwhile, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) lawyers’ community said it will be represented at the trial in Luanda.
“We are undoubtedly concerned with this case. Two lawyers from our association will attend the trial,” Ms Makanatsa Makonetse, the SADC lawyers’ association head, told the Portuguese Lusa news agency.
The SADC lawyers’ association headquarters is in Pretoria in South Africa. Angola is one of the members of the SADC.
SOURCE: AFRICA REVIEW