Angolan young people jailed for 'rebellion' against President dos Santos after discussing democracy in book club

'The judge only obeyed higher orders coming from the president'

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The Independent Online

Angolan youth activists, including a well-known rapper, have been jailed for "rebellion" against one of Africa's longest-serving presidents after they read a book about non-violent resistance.

Seventeen young people have been sentenced to several years in jail for supposedly seeking to overthrow Jose Eduardo dos Santos, the president of Angola, according to AFP.

Luaty Beirao, a 33-year-old Angolan rapper, is one of 15 young people who were arrested while reading a book about democracy and peaceful protest during a book club in June last year.

Mr Beirao, who raps about political issues, was handed a five-and-a-half year sentence for "rebellion against the president of the republic, criminal association and falsifying documents."

Opponents of President dos Santos, who has been in power for 37 years and has promised three times to stand down, say the case is evidence of the entrenched political oppression in the southern African country.

Michel Francisco, the lawyer representing 10 of the accused, said he will appeal.

"Justice has not been done in a transparent way because things have been politicised and the judge only obeyed higher orders coming from the president," he told Al Jazeera.

The group allegedly met to discuss a book written by Angolan journalist Dominigos da Cruz, who has also been sentenced, called Tools to Destroy a Dictatorship and Avoiding a New Dictatorship - Political philosophy for the Liberation of Angola. 

Mr da Cruz was identified as the "leader" of the group and given eight-and-a-half years for supposedly planning a coup.

Amnesty International said the young people had been denied the right to a fair trial and instead been marched through a "kangaroo court".

Muleya Mwananyanda, deputy director for southern Africa at Amnesty International, said: "These activists, held for over five months on trumped up charges, have not only been unjustly detained, but have also found themselves before a kangaroo court."

All of the defendants insist they are peaceful campaigners for the departure of President dos Santos, who is Africa's second-longest serving president after Equitorial Guinea's Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo.

The court reportedly spent "days" reading out almost 200 pages of the unpublished book written by Mr da Cruz.

President dos Santos, leader of the ruling Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) party, has been in power since 1979 - four years after the country gained independence from its Portugese colonial rulers.

He has been accused of authoritarianism and of making his daughter Isobel the richest woman in Africa.

Transparency International, the anti-corruption organisation, has ranked Angola 163 out of 168 countries in its corruption perception index.

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