Marcos Mavungo spent his birthday, December 6th, in prison, where he has been for the past 9 months. He, along with the #Angola15, endured the irony of Angola’s recent 40th independence celebration locked in a cell. Mavungo’s crime was attempting to organize a peaceful protest. The #Angola15 were meeting to discuss non-violent measures to bring governmental changes in civil and human rights freedoms. None of them will be home for Christmas or to celebrate the new year.
Marcos is not the only one to celebrate a marred birthday. Without doubt, several of the #Angola15 similarly marked their birthdays in prison in the 6 months since they were detained. Rafael Marques’ birthday came 3 months after he received a suspended sentence, convicted for his efforts to expose corruption and human rights abuses in the diamond fields in Angola. He spent his day with the cloud of potential imprisonment always looming.
The trial of the #Angola15 is in its fourth week. Amnesty has documented fair trial violations as the case unfolds. The court will recess soon so the judges, prosecutor and court staff can enjoy time with their families. If the case is not completed before that time, the defendants will remain in prison, locked in a legal limbo, until the court reconvenes in March.
Amnesty is calling for the unconditional release of Marcos Mavuno and the #Angola15, to quash the conviction of Rafael Marques, and for the dropping of charges against human rights lawyer Arao Bula Tempo. Activists in Angola are commemorating their birthdays and public holidays from a concrete cell, merely because they are trying to better the lives of fellow Angolans. It’s time they went home.