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Angolan authorities must immediately and unconditionally release the 17 activists arrested on trumped up charges, said Amnesty International today as demonstrations take place in several cities around the world to mark the first anniversary of their arrest.

The 17 were charged with “preparatory acts of rebellion” (actos preparatórios de rebelião) and “criminal conspiracy” and handed down conviction and sentences ranging from two and eight-and-a-half years after being arrested for attending a meeting where they discussed politics and governance concerns.

“One year on, it is completely unacceptable that these 17 activists are still in prison when there was no basis for their arrest in the first place,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for Southern Arica.

“By keeping these young innocent activists behind bars for a year now, Angolan authorities have grossly violated their rights. Their sentences must be overturned and they must be immediately and unconditionally released.”

Amnesty International considers them prisoners of conscience.

Demonstrations are due to take place in Lisbon, Paris, Brussels and Johannesburg as well as in six different places across Angola.

Amnesty International is urging the authorities to respect, protect, promote and fulfil the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly of protesters and to ensure that all demonstrations take place in accordance with the country’s international human rights obligations and commitments.

“On the anniversary of their arrest, people around the world have come together to demand the release of these 17 activists,” said Muchena.

Background

Fifteen activists were arrested between June 20 and 24, 2015 after attending a meeting in Luanda to discuss politics and governance concerns.

Two other activists had been charged alongside them, but were not detained.

The 17 were convicted on March 28 and handed down sentences ranging from two and eight-and-a-half years after a highly flawed trial which did not meet fair trial standards.

Demonstrations and events will be held in Angola, Belgium, France, Portugal and South Africa between June 18 and 24.