Prominent Angolan human rights activist and journalist Rafael Marques de Morais appeared in court Monday on charges of insulting a public authority after questioning the integrity of a former attorney general, Agence France Presse reports:
The charges relate to a story Marques, 46, wrote in 2016 about the country’s former attorney general’s purchase of rural land designated for urban development. Marques, who runs the news website Maka Angola, and Mariano Bras, another journalist who reproduced the article, face up to three years in jail.
Marques’s lawyer Horacio Junjuvili sought to have the charges dropped, arguing the case was in violation of the constitutional provision on freedom of expression and freedom of the press. Marques was charged for alleging that ex-attorney general Joao Maria de Sousa exploited the country’s weak land rights laws by paying the price of rural land for what would later become prime beach-front real estate.
Under the Law on Crimes against State Security, I am accused of an outrage against a sovereign body, the former President José Eduardo dos Santos. The second crime is of insult against a public office holder, the former Attorney General João Maria Moreira de Sousa. Both carry a maximum sentence of four years.
The courtroom is packed. Judge Josina Mussua Ferreira Falcão notes how disrespectful the former attorney general and his counsel have been. For the second time, they submitted a last minute request to postpone the trial sine die (without a set date), and this time with an unreasonable justification. The judge decides to go ahead with the trial without the plaintiff or his counsel. Read more.
Marques was indicted upon his return from Washington, DC, where he was honored (right), along with four other anti-corruption activists, with the National Endowment for Democracy’s 2017 Democracy Award.
“Rafael Marques’ relentless efforts to expose corruption in Angola despite constant harassment and legal and physical threats to himself are exactly why the Endowment chose to honor him,” said NED president Carl Gershman. “We will be following this case closely, and I am sure many others in the media and international community who know and respect Rafael’s important work also be paying close attention,” he added.