Journalist trial puts Angola’s reputation in the dock

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By Joe Brock

LUANDA  – An Angolan journalist who accused generals of abuses in the illicit diamond trade faces libel charges in court on Thursday in a case that is putting the spotlight on a major African oil-producer keen to improve its reputation abroad.

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 Angolan officers.

The generals denied the allegations and brought defamation charges against Marques de Morais in Portugal, where the book published, but the case was dismissed because of a lack of evidence. They are accusing him of libel in Angola.

“This is a politically charged case that has very little to do with the ,” Marques de Morais told Reuters this week.

“There is only one outcome that would serve justice and that is to send me home in peace,” added Marques de Morais, who has won international awards for his human rights activism.

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The court and prosecution lawyers did not respond to requests for comment.

Marques de Morais has been an outspoken critic of President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who has ruled ’s largest oil exporter for 36 years, leading it out of nearly three decades of civil war in 2002.

Jailing Marques de Morais would draw criticism from global rights groups who have accused dos Santos of limiting of speech and keeping a tight grip on the media.