RAFAEL MARQUES TRIAL

Publié le par Angola-Inteligente

A leading Angolan journalist facing 24 charges of criminal defamation over his investigation into killing and torture at the country’s diamond mines is hopeful that all but three will soon be dropped.  Rafael Marques de Morais said he is close to an out-of-court settlement with a group of generals he accused of profiting from blood diamonds. But one mining company refuses to join the deal and wants to press on with a case that could still land the anti-corruption activist in jail.  Marques, 43, made a brief appearance in court in the Angolan capital, Luanda, on Thursday before the trial was postponed until 14 May.  He initially faced nine defamation charges arising from his 2011 book, Blood Diamonds: Corruption and Torture in Angola, which documented more than 100 killings and hundreds of cases of torture allegedly perpetrated by security guards and the Angolan army against local people and small-scale miners in the diamond fields of the Cuango region. When the trial finally got under way behind closed doors last month, the number of charges soared to 24.  This week I may be jailed for writing a book on human rights abuses Rafael Marques de Morais  Read more But Marques has since held a private meeting with the seven generals, including the minister of state and head of the intelligence bureau of the president. “The generals want to bring this to a close quickly,” he said. “The fact that they wanted to sit down and talk with me directly is a positive sign. It was all very good natured. Now we are talking, it would be hard to go back to litigation.”  Advertisement The generals are asking Marques to concede the possibility that they did not know about the human rights abuses carried out by their personnel, he continued. “What the generals want is an acknowledgement that they were unaware. They want to be exonerated from any responsibility for what happened. They say they were not informed of all the steps I took.  “We will say we took all the steps and it’s unfortunate that the generals didn’t get this information. It was not my intention to offend them. In the interests of peace and reconciliation, I will acknowledge that they were not aware. It’s a negotiation: fine, let’s move on.”  The generals co-own a private security company whose employees carried out many of the cases of murder and torture alleged in the book. But they deserve credit, Marques added, for having since withdrawn it from the area where these atrocities took place. “That’s an important contribution that I must acknowledge. What is important here is the public interest. If I say a few words that make the generals happy and contribute to peace and allow me to continue my works, that is a positive contribution.”  Advertisement  Marques, for his part, is willing to make the concession of agreeing not to reprint his book, which contains cases now at least four years old. “By creating a climate of less tension and more dialogue, it is possible for me to monitor the situation and contact them directly when new cases arrive.”  Lawyers for the generals did not confirm a possible deal, saying only they needed time to decide on legal and technical issues raised by Marques’s lawyers. “We will … submit our position in writing to the court for 14 May,” one told Agence France-Presse.  But even if they reach an amicable resolution, Marques’s ordeal is far from over. The British, Mozambican and Angolan directors and partners of ITM Mining, which also features in the book, have requested that their case be separated from the rest and resume on 14 May. The three charges could still result in a year-long prison sentence for the journalist and a fine equivalent to around $225,000 (£150,000).  Paula Roque, a senior analyst of southern Africa at the International Crisis Group, said: “By pursuing this they will open themselves to further scrutiny. Rafael will defend his position. They might decide it is better to drop it.”  She welcomed the prospect of an out-of-court settlement with the generals, noting that Marques’s Portuguese publisher has already made his book available for free online. “It’s more of win situation for Rafael than the generals. He got all the publicity he needed for the case and got his message through. He was facing prison and a £1.2m fine. It’s a winning strategy.”  Marques, who has run his investigative website Maka Angola from his kitchen for seven years, has been jailed before for branding Angolan president José Eduardo dos Santos a dictator. Marques spent 43 days locked up without charge in 1999, going for days at a time without food or water in solitary confinement.  He has won numerous honours, including the Index on Censorship’s freedom of expression in journalism award last month. On Tuesday Noel Kututwa, Amnesty International’s deputy director for southern Africa, said: “The case against Rafael Marques de Morais demonstrates a sustained attack on an individual and the right to freedom of expression in Angola. He is being targeted for simply expressing his thoughts about societal wrongs in the country. This must stop.  “Rafael Marques de Morais has a long history of working to hold the Angolan government to account for human rights abuses and corruption through his insightful, thoughtful and well regarded journalistic investigations. This is simply a backlash against a man who has fought to expose the worst excesses of the state.”

A leading Angolan journalist facing 24 charges of criminal defamation over his investigation into killing and torture at the country’s diamond mines is hopeful that all but three will soon be dropped. Rafael Marques de Morais said he is close to an out-of-court settlement with a group of generals he accused of profiting from blood diamonds. But one mining company refuses to join the deal and wants to press on with a case that could still land the anti-corruption activist in jail. Marques, 43, made a brief appearance in court in the Angolan capital, Luanda, on Thursday before the trial was postponed until 14 May. He initially faced nine defamation charges arising from his 2011 book, Blood Diamonds: Corruption and Torture in Angola, which documented more than 100 killings and hundreds of cases of torture allegedly perpetrated by security guards and the Angolan army against local people and small-scale miners in the diamond fields of the Cuango region. When the trial finally got under way behind closed doors last month, the number of charges soared to 24. This week I may be jailed for writing a book on human rights abuses Rafael Marques de Morais Read more But Marques has since held a private meeting with the seven generals, including the minister of state and head of the intelligence bureau of the president. “The generals want to bring this to a close quickly,” he said. “The fact that they wanted to sit down and talk with me directly is a positive sign. It was all very good natured. Now we are talking, it would be hard to go back to litigation.” Advertisement The generals are asking Marques to concede the possibility that they did not know about the human rights abuses carried out by their personnel, he continued. “What the generals want is an acknowledgement that they were unaware. They want to be exonerated from any responsibility for what happened. They say they were not informed of all the steps I took. “We will say we took all the steps and it’s unfortunate that the generals didn’t get this information. It was not my intention to offend them. In the interests of peace and reconciliation, I will acknowledge that they were not aware. It’s a negotiation: fine, let’s move on.” The generals co-own a private security company whose employees carried out many of the cases of murder and torture alleged in the book. But they deserve credit, Marques added, for having since withdrawn it from the area where these atrocities took place. “That’s an important contribution that I must acknowledge. What is important here is the public interest. If I say a few words that make the generals happy and contribute to peace and allow me to continue my works, that is a positive contribution.” Advertisement Marques, for his part, is willing to make the concession of agreeing not to reprint his book, which contains cases now at least four years old. “By creating a climate of less tension and more dialogue, it is possible for me to monitor the situation and contact them directly when new cases arrive.” Lawyers for the generals did not confirm a possible deal, saying only they needed time to decide on legal and technical issues raised by Marques’s lawyers. “We will … submit our position in writing to the court for 14 May,” one told Agence France-Presse. But even if they reach an amicable resolution, Marques’s ordeal is far from over. The British, Mozambican and Angolan directors and partners of ITM Mining, which also features in the book, have requested that their case be separated from the rest and resume on 14 May. The three charges could still result in a year-long prison sentence for the journalist and a fine equivalent to around $225,000 (£150,000). Paula Roque, a senior analyst of southern Africa at the International Crisis Group, said: “By pursuing this they will open themselves to further scrutiny. Rafael will defend his position. They might decide it is better to drop it.” She welcomed the prospect of an out-of-court settlement with the generals, noting that Marques’s Portuguese publisher has already made his book available for free online. “It’s more of win situation for Rafael than the generals. He got all the publicity he needed for the case and got his message through. He was facing prison and a £1.2m fine. It’s a winning strategy.” Marques, who has run his investigative website Maka Angola from his kitchen for seven years, has been jailed before for branding Angolan president José Eduardo dos Santos a dictator. Marques spent 43 days locked up without charge in 1999, going for days at a time without food or water in solitary confinement. He has won numerous honours, including the Index on Censorship’s freedom of expression in journalism award last month. On Tuesday Noel Kututwa, Amnesty International’s deputy director for southern Africa, said: “The case against Rafael Marques de Morais demonstrates a sustained attack on an individual and the right to freedom of expression in Angola. He is being targeted for simply expressing his thoughts about societal wrongs in the country. This must stop. “Rafael Marques de Morais has a long history of working to hold the Angolan government to account for human rights abuses and corruption through his insightful, thoughtful and well regarded journalistic investigations. This is simply a backlash against a man who has fought to expose the worst excesses of the state.”

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