Angolan journalist and activist Rafael Marques appeared in court on Tuesday (24.03.15) on defamation charges after he published a book exposing corruption and rights abuses in the diamond mining sector.
The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) has accused Angola of harassing and intimidating journalists and human rights activists. In a report released on March 23, FIDH says the regime of Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos has been targeting rights activists in its efforts to silence all forms of opposition. Rafael Marques has been on trial for fifteen years battling a lawsuit he describes as a charade.
DW: Are you concerned about the outcome of this lawsuit, taking into account that you are being sued for more than one million dollars and could even face prison?
Rafael Marques: I expect nothing else but to go home as a freeman. The reason I expect that to happen is because if the charge is to abide by the law, then there is no case because the charges against me do not even specify what exactly I said in my criminal complaint that is offensive to the generals. There is no specification and in terms of law one has to be specific. The accusations and the charges cannot be generalized by way of saying that I have offended the generals and that's essentially the accusation. So, it must be specified where the offensive words are with which I defamed the generals.
Furthermore it is important to explain that the office of the Attorney General has never investigated the cases of murder and torture that I have filed for investigation. On the contrary, what the office of the Attorney General did was to investigate my financial records and my trips abroad. So, this is a case of criminal defamation involving murder, torture and corruption and what the Attorney General investigates is how much money I have in the bank, my sources and how often I travel abroad.
15 years after you were accused of defaming the Angolan President, for which you have been made to sit in an Angolan court, has anything changed?
Fifteen years ago I sat in the court of law to defend myself of having defamed the president because I called the president corrupt and a dictator. I was arrested and spent 43 days in jail and only after my release that I was charged. I tell you what has changed: We have seen through these fifteen years the degradation of the space for freedom of expression, free press and even democracy. There was a more vibrant civil society at the time of war in 1999 than there is today. And what is so appalling is that even during the war we were able to be more vocal because more people spoke out than what is happening today when it has just been reduced to a handful of individuals who continue to challenge the status quo.
Amnesty International started a petition to raise awareness about your case. How do you feel about the international support you're getting so far?
I am most grateful for the support I have been receiving both internally and from international organizations. It is a very good indication that this is not a lone course but one in which both at home and abroad people can identify themselves with and be supportive of. More important and that's what the generals will face in court, is my state of mind. I am a free man. I am an Angolan citizen and it is my right to fight for those who are voiceless. It is my right for me to expose human rights abuses, to expose corruption and I will continue to do so and I will come out of this trial even stronger.
Interview: Nelson Sul D'Angola