Angolan journalist charged over diamond book

LUANDA - A renowned Angolan journalist has been put on trial on charges of defaming military generals after he accused them of links to the "blood diamond" trade.

Rafael Marques de Morais accused seven generals of being linked to murder, torture and land grabs in Angola's lucrative diamond fields.

Several people were reportedly arrested for protesting against the trial.

Mr de Morais is a long-standing critic of President Jose Eduardo dos Santos' 35-year rule in Angola.

He spent 43 days in prison, including 11 in solitary confinement, in 1999 after he published the article, The Lipstick of the Dictatorship, in a private Angolan newspaper.

Dissent is generally not tolerated in Angola and some critics of the authorities are either bought off, jailed or disappear, says BBC Africa analyst Mary Harper.

The latest case against Mr de Morais comes after he wrote a book, Blood Diamonds: Torture and Corruption in Angola.

"There is no link between the Angolan armed forces and the crimes exposed," Joao Manuel, a lawyer for the generals, is quoted by the AFP news agency as saying.

Judge Adriano Cerveira told the packed courtroom in the capital, Luanda, that the trial would be held behind closed doors, the reports.

Outside court, scuffles broke out between police and protesters who chanted "free Rafael" and "imprison the generals", the agency said.

Speaking after the case was adjourned until 23 April, Mr de Morais said: "I went to court today facing nine charges of criminal defamation. I left slapped with up to 15 additional ones for defamation."

Mr de Morais was in the UK last week to receive a freedom of expression award given to him by campaign group Index on Censorship.

It called for the charges against him to be dropped.

Before the trial opened, Mr de Morais told the BBC's Focus on Africa radio programme that Angola's leaders lead Western lifestyles with luxury homes and cars, but denounce critics as "stooges of imperialists" when they demand freedoms enjoyed by people in the West.

"As a good guy I'm out to fight these bad guys until I win," he said.

If found guilty he could be sentenced to up to nine years in prison and fined $1.2m (£800,000).

The unregulated diamond trade fuelled Angola's 27-year civil war, which ended in 2002.

Since the end of the conflict, the country - one of Africa's major oil producers - has witnessed an economic boom, though critics of the elected government say the wealth has only benefited a small elite.

Comments (3)

Certainly there is something wrong when one rules for 35 years.all is not well there.

carson macate - 25 March 2015

Angola and Zimbabwe seem to have a lot in common.You'd think they are twins. 35 year rule, dictatorship, killings, disappearances, blood diamonds, oppression, no freedom of speech,association, assembly etc. No development, poverty for the majority while minority enjoys all the resources. One party or one man state. Leaders is worshiped as if they are one of the Gods. No room for criticism. Very intolerant ruling party. Bad governance. Political crimes rife. Rigging of elections. Poor salaries. High unemployment rate. Poor economic performance. General economic instability. No press freedom. No transparency. THAT IS THE EFFECT OF CHINA AND THE USSR ON A CONTINENT.

mosquito - 26 March 2015

Jose Eduardo dos Santos has been pillaging that country dry and taking diamond & oil revenues to built private business empire headed by his daughter. He reads the same script as Mugabe i.e. pillaging and arresting/victimising those who speak up.

Lt General - 26 March 2015

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