London, 28 May 2015 – The reinstatement of criminal defamation charges against Angolan journalist Rafael Marques de Morais just days after similar charges were dropped by a court is a deeply worrying development and calls into question the independence of the judiciary in Angola, PEN International said today.
The journalist is facing a 30-day prison sentence if, as expected, he is convicted in a trial hearing today. The charges relate to his 2011 book Blood Diamonds: Torture and Corruption in Angola which detailed killings and torture, perpetrated by private security guards working for mining companies in Angola’s diamond fields. It also levelled responsibility for abuses at several generals who owned the mines, for failing to stop the abuses. Following publication, the generals lodged a defamation complaint against him.
‘Reinstating charges, days after coming to an agreement with de Morais to drop them, smacks of vindictiveness and a desire to criminalise a courageous journalist who was uncovering serious human rights abuses. We call on the Angolan authorities to drop these charges immediately and to stop the persecution of de Morais, who has described this process as ‘torture’, said Marian Botsford Fraser, Chair of PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee.
PEN International has been campaigning for the dropping of the charges against Morais since 2011.