Journalist Rafael Marques had reason to celebrate last week after being acquitted of criminal libel charges brought against him by the generals he exposed for complicity in human rights abuses. On Thursday, however, Marques had to return to court in Luanda and got a six-month suspended sentence.
Marques was acquitted from charges last week because he conceded that, possibly, the military elite was not informed about the 500 cases of torture and 100 killings carried out in the Lunda Norte province where foreign companies have been generating a billion dollars in profits from diamond mining. In his book “Blood Diamonds: Corruption and Torture in Angola,” Marques found that nine top Angolan generals are responsible for these acts of violence as big shareholders in the diamond extraction and owners of the security company involved in the violations. The generals proceeded to prosecute Marques by bringing a total of 11 charges against the journalist for defamation and libel in 2013.
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For charges to be dismissed, Marques also had to concede to no longer publish further editions of his book, which the public prosecutor later considered an admission of guilt. Marques could consequently be convicted for ‘malicious prosecution´ rather than libel.
“The public prosecutor put words in my mouth. He said that I had apologized, and had admitted to have written falsehoods,” Marques told Index on Censorship before the sentence.
News about the charges brought human rights organizations to strongly condemn Angola for its repression of freedom of expression.
“After more than two years of continuous judicial harassment, solely based on Mr. Marques de Morais human rights activities, this last decision makes yet another mockery of justice in Angola,” said Karim Lahidji, President of the International Federation for Human Rights.
Marques is reported appeal to the courts to continue his battle.