Angola: Journalist Faces Trial for Incitement to Civil Disobedience

The Provincial Court of Luanda adjourned today, June 14, the trial of journalist Domingos da Cruz, accused of inciting civil disobedience, for an article he wrote in 2009.

Judge Salomão Filipe called upon the defense lawyer, Walter Tondela, and informed him of several irregularities in the case, which prevented him from proceeding with the trial today. According to the judge, the public prosecution pressed criminal charges against Domingos da Cruz based upon a revoked law on Crimes against State Security. It also failed to notify the defendant on the charges against him, and summoned the defendant by telephone.

On August 8, 2009, the journalist published an article entitled «When War is Necessary and Urgent», in the independent weekly newspaper Folha 8. In response, the deputy prosecutor of the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation (DNIC) brought charges against the journalist, accusing him of disruption of the public order and of incitement to war, but without formally notifying him.

In the article, Domingos da Cruz expressed his views on the methods of government used by President José Eduardo dos Santos and his party, the MPLA, which he considered to be authoritarian, corrupt and insensitive to the suffering of the Angolan people. According to the writer, «[… ] under this suffocating regime, the people are left with no other option but to enter into a just, urgent and necessary war, otherwise the country will implode.»

As a result of this and other commentaries, the office of the Attorney General pressed charges against the journalist, based on the Law on Crimes against the Security of the State (Law 7/78).

The defense attorney, Walter Tondela, points out that this law was revoked in 2010. «The crime of incitement to civil disobedience does not appear anywhere in the wording of the current law (23/10),» he said. «Without the occurrence of an event which the law defines as a crime, there can be no accusation, since there can be no crime if no law was broken,» the lawyer explained. Walter Tondela further added that his client «should not be accused or tried under a law that has been revoked.»

In addition to this, the lawyer noted that the journalist was declared a formal suspect in August 2009, but «he was never notified of the charge.» Due to the irregularities in the case, the lawyer wants the charges against his client to be dropped.

With regard to Law 7/78, Luís Nascimento, a lawyer with extensive experience defending civic causes, considered that the said law «was appropriate only to the single party regime in effect at the time in Angola [1975-1991]. This was a law at odds with a a system based on the plurality of ideas and the rule of law.» Article 26 of the law in question criminalized «each and every act, not defined by the law, which threatens or endangers the security of the State.»

However, in November 2010, the provincial Court of Lunda-Norte convicted several activists from the Movement for the Defense of Autonomy of the Protectorate of Lunda-Tchokwé under that law, although it had already been revoked. The defendants were accused of crimes against the state security for incitement to partitioning the country. The members of the movement, formerly known as the Commission for the Legal and Sociological Manifest for the Protectorate of Lunda-Tchokwé, seek autonomy for the eastern region of the country.

Three teachers, Domingos Henriques, José Muteba and António Malembeca, are currently serving sentences of three to four years. Another sentenced teacher, Sebastião Lumanhe, is serving a six-year sentence for the same crime, due to the aggravating circumstance of being a school principal. Angola: Journalist Faces Trial for Incitement to Civil Disobedience.

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