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Angolan Court Slaps Additional Charges on Marques de Morais

Mar 25, 2015 12:02 PM   By Jeff Miller
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RAPAPORT... Rafael Marques de Morais, who exposed government and trading corruption across Angola's diamond industry with the book "Blood Diamonds: Torture and Corruption in Angola," faces additional defamation charges in his home country. Marques de Morais'  trial, stemming from claims in the 2011 book, began on March 24, but it was adjourned until April 23 so that his lawyers could address the new charges.

"I went to court today, facing nine charges of criminal defamation. I left slapped with up to 15 additional (charges) for defamation. Speechless!" he wrote on his Twitter feed.

The judge overseeing the case also decided that proceedings would be held behind closed doors and exclude the press and public.

Marques de Morais documented corruption, torture and murder waged against small-scale miners in Angola by security forces whom he linked to military generals, high-ranking politicians and businessmen. Furthermore, after the book was published, the author proceeded to file criminal charges in Portugal against those he named; however, the case was tossed for lack of evidence.  In response, at least seven military generals and others are pursing Marques de Morais in Angola's court, with a $1.2 million criminal defamation suit.

This past week, Marques de Morais received a 2015 Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Award for Journalism in London. He operates the Maka Angola news website.

During his acceptance speech, he said, "On my return to Angola from this trip, I will be sitting in court on March 24 as the defendant on nine separate charges of defamation brought against me by seven powerful generals and four of their business associates. I wrote a book that exposed human rights abuses in the diamond industry, in which the plaintiffs are major shareholders and whose private security company has executed many of the violations," he said. "I am proud and honored to stand up against such a mighty power to enable many of the victims to speak out through my reports, which I have been producing for the past 10 years. I will come out of this trial stronger and empowered by the experience."

Over the past year, numerous groups have come to the defense of Marques de Morais and condemned the charges, including Reporters Without Borders, Transparency International, Human Rights Watch, the United Nations special rapporteur on human rights and the African Commission on Human & Peoples' Rights special rapporteur. Twice in the past year, the coalition in support of the author sent  urgent appeals to the Angolan government to drop the charges, citing  "highly irregular" practices in the way the court charged Marques de Morais and that it had, on numerous occasions, restricted  his ability to defend himself as permitted under the African Charter, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights  and Angolan law.

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Tags: Angola, Blood Diamonds, defamation, diamond trading, human rights, Jeff Miller, Rafael marques de morais, United Nations
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