Angolan court frees 17 jailed activists

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An Angolan court on Wednesday ordered the conditional release of 17 young activists, including a well-known rapper, three months after they were jailed for rebellion against President Jose Eduardo dos Santos.

Most of group were arrested during a book club meeting in June last year where one of the books on the line-up was about non-violent resistance to repressive regimes.

The activists maintained throughout their trial they were peaceful campaigners for the departure of dos Santos, who has been in power since September, 1979 and rules the oil-rich country with an iron fist.

“Release warrants under house arrest were issued on behalf of 17 applicants to be executed from the present day,” the Supreme Court in Luanda said in a statement.

The ruling overturns sentences ranging from two to eight years in prison, which were handed down at the end of a lengthy trial in March amid complaints about political repression.

One of the accused, rapper Luaty Beirao, went on hunger strike for over a month last year to protest against his detention.

Defence lawyer Francisco Miguel Michel said Wednesday he was “very happy”.

“Any court concerned with the application of justice would have ruled the same,” he said, insisting his clients “committed no crime”.

Human Rights Watch researcher Zenaida Machado told AFP the ruling was “long overdue”.

“The order should have been given immediately after the verdict in March… I am satisfied that the Supreme Court is upholding the law of the country,” she said.

AFP

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