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Defense

Cabinda activist released after seven months says arrests are recurrent

Cabinda political activist André Bônzela, released by court order for excessive pre-trial detention, said this Sunday that the situation he faced is recurrent and the people "have no right to anything."

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André Bônzela, Maurício Gimi and João Mampuela, members of the organization Union of Cabindans for Independence (UCI), were arrested between 28 and 30 June 2020, accused of the crimes of rebellion, outrage to the State and criminal association, and were released on Friday, under term of identity and residence, for excessive pre-trial detention.

Speaking to Lusa news agency, André Bônzela considered the detention "illegal and arbitrary", questioning how is possible people who were walking in the street to be accused of rebellion.

"The arrest was illegal and arbitrary, because we were walking in the street, we were going to the bus stop to get the cab and then we were surprised by a jeep with tinted windows, where there were people dressed in plain clothes, with sunglasses, guns, without any badge that could identify that they were men of authority," he explained.

According to André Bônzela, the activists thought it was a kidnapping attempt, but the confusion generated caused traffic jams and people realized the situation.

"We were given to understand that they wanted to kidnap Maurício Gimbi, but since we were together I didn't accept that it was alone. They ended up taking both of us to the SIC [Criminal Investigation Service]," he told us.

In the SIC, we were heard and taken to the civil jail, where, the activist pointed out, "there were still many attempts" to take them to an uncertain place.

"On our third day, I remember, we went one day without seeing our relatives, they said that these prisoners were not in the establishment. There were many complaints on social networks and in the media, and that is what saved us that night," he stressed.

André Bônzela reiterated that the activists do not accept the crimes of which they are accused.

During the seven months in jail, the activist stressed that there were no conditions and that they were mistreated.

"Without notifying the lawyers, no one, we were surprised to go to the court to be heard. There they decided to return us to freedom, but on a term of identity and residence," he said.

André Bônzela was employed, but due to the arrest his wages were cancelled, and he ended up losing his job. Today he is without any pay,

About the jail, André Bônzela mentioned that there was overcrowding, in a four-bed cell there were up to 15 individuals, the corridors had no space for people to pass.

"The treatment was cruel, there was no water to drink, only to bathe, it was difficult. There are many contagious diseases, we are in a time of pandemic and the authorities didn't care about that, so far what is there is inhumane," he pointed out.

The accusation describes that on June 28 Maurício Gime and André Bônzela were found pasting A4 pamphlets, with the words: "Put down the weapons, Put down the War in Cabinda, Cabinda is not Angola, We want Dialogue, Long Live Freedom, Long Live the People of Cabinda".

André Bônzela rejected the accusation, accepting that the pamphlets are of the organization's authorship, but were not pasted by them.

Asked what the pamphlets were for, the activist said that "they were only to warn Angolan entities to put down their weapons."

"Because what is the democratic rule of law? The people should have the right to opinion, to expression and more. On the contrary, we are allowed nothing, nothing at all, in our homes we are constantly watched, we can no longer speak, we can do nothing, it is a real dictatorship what happens in Cabinda," he lamented.

"Cabinda is a territory with resources and [there is] high unemployment. The people, owners of the province, we have no rights, social conditions do not exist, there are no schools, hospitals," he criticized.

The UCI was created in 2018 and has more than 5000 members, André Bônzela said, stressing that it is a philanthropic, peaceful organization that fights for Cabinda's right to self-determination and independence.

Maurício Gimbi is the leader of UCI, and André Bônzela is the vice-president, while João Mampuela is the director of the president's office.

Arão Tempo, the activists' lawyer, said he will wait for the trial to raise unconstitutionality or appeal to the Constitutional Court to argue unconstitutionality.

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