JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Angola's Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered the conditional release of 17 political activists, known as the Luanda Book Club, who had been convicted of plotting to overthrow the government of the oil-rich southern African country.
The court order published by news website Rede Angola says the release warrants, issued under terms of house arrest, were to be carried out "in the present day."
The conditional release is pending a final decision in the group's case, Human Rights Watch researcher Zenaida Machado tweeted Wednesday afternoon.
The 17 activists were arrested after a 2015 meeting in the capital, Luanda, to discuss Gene Sharp's 1993 book "From Dictatorship to Democracy, A Conceptual Framework for Liberation." The London-based PEN International, which promotes freedom of expression, said in a statement on the arrests that the book is described as "a blueprint for non-violent resistance to repressive regimes."
The book club members were found guilty of preparing a rebellion and criminal conspiracy. In March they were given jail terms of up to eight and a half years. Amnesty International at the time called the trial "deeply politicized."
As the verdict was read out in March, one activist held up a sign with a photo of President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, describing him as the man who is dividing the country, according to photos published by Rede Angola.
Dos Santos is one of Africa's longest-running leaders, in power in the country since 1979.