LUANDA (Reuters) - An Angolan journalist was given a six-month suspended sentence on Thursday after he was convicted of slander for accusing generals of human rights abuses at diamond mines, concluding a high-profile trial in one of Africa’s most repressive states.
Rafael Marques de Morais’ 2012 book “Blood Diamonds: Corruption and Torture in Angola” detailed more than 100 alleged killings and torture of civilians and workers at diamond mines owned by senior army officers.
The generals denied the allegations and brought defamation charges against Marques de Morais in former colonial master Portugal, where the book was published; but that case was dismissed for lack of evidence.
The generals then turned to the courts in Angola, where rights groups say the ruling party, in power since independence in 1975, pays scant regard to freedom of expression.
Marques de Morais reached an out of court agreement with the generals requiring him to remove books from circulation and the Internet. In return, they agreed to drop their libel case.
However, state prosecutors decided to continue with the case on the grounds it constituted a criminal offence.
The case put a spotlight on the major African oil-producer, which is keen to improve its reputation abroad amid criticism from donors and rights groups about its record on issues such as human rights and financial transparency.
Reporting by Herculano Coroado; Editing by Ed Stoddard and Ralph Boulton