Angolan Journalist Charged Over "Blood Diamonds" Book

A renowned Angolan journalist has been put on trial on charges of defaming military generals after he accused them of links to the “blood diamond” trade.

Rafael Marques de Morais accused seven generals of being linked to murder, torture and land grabs in Angola’s lucrative diamond fields.

He denies the charges, saying the truth is on his side.

de Morais was detained in 1999 for allegedly defaming Angola’s President Jose Eduardo dos Santos.

He spent 43 days in prison, including 11 in solitary confinement, after he published the article, The Lipstick of the Dictatorship, in a private Angolan newspaper.

‘Stooges’

Dissent is generally not tolerated in Angola and some critics of the authorities are either bought off, jailed or disapppear, says BBC Africa analyst Mary Harpe.

The latest case against de Morais comes after he wrote a book, Blood Diamonds: Torture and Corruption in Angola.

Mr de Morais was in the UK last week to receive a freedom of expression award given to him by campaign group Index on Censorship.

It called for the charges against him to be dropped.

Before the trial opened, de Morais told the BBC’s Focus on Africa radio programme that Angola’s leaders lead Western lifestyles with luxury homes and cars, but denounce critics as “stooges of imperialists” when they demand freedoms enjoyed by people in the West.

He would continue to expose corruption and human rights abuses, despite constant harassment by the authorities, he said.

“As a good guy I’m out to fight these bad guys until I win,” Mr de Morais added.

If found guilty he could be sentenced to up to nine years in prison and fined $1.2m (£800,000).

The unregulated diamond trade fuelled Angola’s 27-year civil war, which ended in 2002.

Since the end of the conflict, the country – one of Africa’s major oil producers – has witnessed an economic boom, though critics of the elected government say the wealth has only benefited a small elite.

 

BBC