Angola frees anti-government protesters on bail


Seven Angolans arrested at a demonstration against President Jose Eduardo dos Santos last week were released on bail on Monday, as human rights groups complained about assaults on protesters and journalists who cover such events.

A large police contingent confronted the protest in central Luanda on Thursday where the seven young men were arrested on charges of causing disturbance and putting public order at risk.
“It was ruled that there was insufficient evidence against them,” said Salvador Freire Santos, president of rights group Associacao Maos Livres whose lawyers acted for the defense.
“There is still no formal charge against them, but the matter will now be investigated again,” he told Reuters.

The Angolan Revolutionary Movement (ARM), a political group that says it is not affiliated with any party, has staged several anti-government protests since 2011, including last week’s. It accuses Dos Santos, in power for the last 34 years, of human rights abuses and mismanaging oil revenues.

Dos Santos, who secured a new five-year term last year at elections his opponents say were unfair, has dismissed the protests as unrepresentative of wider public opinion. His ruling MPLA party has dominated elections since it emerged the victor in 2002 from a 27-year civil war.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch on Monday urged the government to end arrests and assaults on demonstrators and journalists covering protests. The Committee to Protect Journalists and the Angolan Journalists’ Union also criticized the crackdown.