Angola court overturns youth protesters conviction

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An Angolan high court overturned the conviction of 18 youths sentenced to up to three months in jail last month for taking part in an anti-government rally that ended in violent clashes, Portuguese state news agency Lusa reported.

The ruling is a victory for the youth protest movement, the opposition and global rights organisations who accuse Angola’s ruling MPLA party of being heavy-handed in dealing with dissent as political tensions rise ahead of an election next year.

The Supreme Court released the youths after ruling there was insufficient evidence to convict them, Lusa said, citing a defence lawyer, Reuters reports.

The protesters plan to seek compensation from the state and start a civil case against the judge who had sentenced them, Lusa quoted the lawyer as saying.
“We cannot continue to accept that judges violate citizens’ rights with anyone being held responsible,” he told the agency.

The youths had been sentenced over a rally on Sept. 3 in the capital Luanda that called for the resignation of President Jose Eduardo dos Santos — who has held power in the oil producing African state for 32 years.

According to Angolan police, the protest gathered around 200 people and resulted in the arrest of 24 youths. They said protesters, journalists and police officers were injured.

The main opposition UNITA had called for the release of those arrested, while rights organisations, including New York-based Human Rights Watch, urged the government to stop using force against demonstrators. .

Inspired by uprisings which toppled rulers in Egypt and Tunisia, Angola’s youth movement has organised five rallies this year demanding that dos Santos resign.

His MPLA, which in 2002 won a 27-year civil war against UNITA and which won 82 percent of the vote in a 2008 general election, has long been accused of mismanaging oil revenues, avoiding public scrutiny and doing too little to fight corruption.

Poverty remains endemic in Africa’s second largest oil producer, with an estimated two-thirds of the 16.5 million population living on less than $2 per day.