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Angolan Engineer Luaty Beirão Conditionally Released from Prison
July 5, 2016

On June 29, 2016, the Supreme Court in Luanda, Angola ordered the conditional release from prison of engineer and well-known musician Luaty Beirão, as well as other activists, and placed them under house arrest pending a final ruling by Angola’s Constitutional Court. They had been convicted in March 2016 and sentenced to lengthy prison terms.

In June 2015, Mr. Beirão—who holds dual Angolan and Portuguese citizenship—and other activists were arrested after attending a pro-democracy book club meeting during which they discussed a book about non-violent resistance. He and the other attendees (along with other activists associated with the group) were detained for months before receiving official notice of the allegations against them, which included plotting a rebellion against long-serving Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos. The group consistently denied the charges brought against them and maintained that they were peacefully campaigning against President dos Santos. Amnesty International considered the activists to be prisoners of conscience held solely for the peaceful exercise of their rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. While in detention, the activists reportedly were subjected to severe ill-treatment and denied needed medical care.

In March 2016, following a trial that reportedly violated international fair trial standards, Mr. Beirão and his colleagues were convicted of “preparatory acts of rebellion” and “criminal conspiracy.” Mr. Beirão was also convicted of falsification of documents. They received prison sentences ranging from 2 to 8 ½ years. Mr. Beirão was sentenced to 5 ½ years in prison.

Mr. Beirão had been on hunger strike in protest against his incarceration and had been moved to the Sao Paulo Prison Hospital. On the day of the court’s decision, his wife received a call directing her to meet him at the hospital.