Prominent Angolan journalist released

AP News
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Posted: May 21, 2015 1:19 PM

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — A prominent Angolan journalist, jailed for his criticism of the government, has been released, a human rights group said on Thursday.

The criminal case against Rafael Marques de Morais has been stopped, the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights group said. The reasons for the action are still unclear, said the group. Marques had been out on bail.

"This is an absolutely stunning turnaround," said Jeffrey Smith, Africa director of the Robert F. Kennedy group, lauding Marques' courage. "He stood face to face with Angola's most powerful and dangerous men, and he did not blink."

The journalist and human rights activist went on trial in March this year after a group of generals accused him of defamation, according to Marques' news website, Maka Angola.

The generals' accusations stem from Marques' 2011 book, "Blood Diamonds: Torture and Corruption in Angola." In it, Marques alleges more than 100 killings and 500 torture cases carried out by a private security firm owned by the generals, according to Maka Angola. Marques also accuses the Angolan Armed Forces of human rights abuses that took place in the country's diamond mining regions.

Marques asked the Angolan attorney general to investigate the allegations, according to an article on Maka Angola. The attorney general interviewed the alleged victims, but set the case aside. The generals in turn laid multiple charges of libel and defamation against Marques.

Marques faced up to nine years in jail or could have been fined up to $1.2 million in damages.