Luanda - The Angolan parliament on Wednesday approved a prisoner
amnesty expected to result in the release of 17 young activists - including a
well-known rapper - under house arrest for an act of rebellion against
President Jose Eduardo dos Santos.
The law "pardons all crimes punishable by imprisonment of up
to 12 years", Justice and Human Rights Minister Rui Mangueiras announced.
The amnesty will benefit around 8 000 prisoners but will exclude
prisoners serving sentences for "intentionally committed violent
crimes" such as sexual offences, drug trafficking, human and organ
trafficking, the minister told parliament.
The 17 activists - arrested last year during a book club meeting
at which one of the books was about non-violent resistance to repressive
regimes - should "in principle" benefit from the law, said Human
Rights Watch's researcher Zenaida Machado.
"However if it happens, it does not meet our expectations
because what we wanted is for the government to drop the charges against the
group or for a court to acquit them because they have committed no crime,"
she told AFP.
Zola Bambi, a lawyer for the group of activists, said he was
disappointed that the government had failed to recognise that the 17 committed
They have "committed no crime that would justify the
conviction. What we expect is an acquittal,
not amnesty," he told AFP.
The activists were in March handed sentences of between two and
eight years in prison but were released
in June to serve out the rest of the sentences at home.
The activists say they are peaceful campaigners seeking the
departure of dos Santos, who has been in power since 1979 and rules the
oil-rich country with an iron fist.
Correctional Services spokesperson Menezes Cassoma said the law
would help to relieve pressure on overcrowded prisons.