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Ambassador Joaquim do Espirito Santo
Embassy of the Republic of Angola
2100-2108 16th St. NW, Washington DC 20009
Phone: 202 785 1156 I Fax: 202 822 9049
Email: [email protected]
Contact Form: https://bit.ly/2OHNKTM
Salutation: Dear Ambassador
Dear Minister Marcy Cláudio Lopes,
I am writing to express concern for the arbitrary detention of activist Gilson da Silva Morreira (also known as Tanaice Neutro). On 13 January, he was arrested at the Criminal Investigation Services (SIC) in Luanda, Angola’s capital, where he went to seek information about another activist who had been arrested two days before in the context of the taxi drivers’ strike.
Tanaice Neutro is a popular artist who often uses kuduro, a type of Angolan music, to express himself about social issues in the country. He was arrested in connection to videos he posted on social media expressing frustration with the situation in Angola, including the levels of poverty, bad governance, corruption, and repression, and called on Angolans to stand up for their rights. In the videos, he also called the president a ‘clown’ and the authorities – who he accused of abusing their power by arbitrarily arresting people- ‘ignorant’.
He was held in pre-trial detention for about six months, contrary to the law that establishes a period of up to 90 days. On 22 April 2022, he was charged by the Court of First Instance initially with four offenses (outrage, criminal association, resistance against public officials and rebellion) from which three charges were later dropped for being unfounded. The judge then determined on 12 October 2022 that he should serve 15 months of suspended sentence for causing ‘outrage to the symbols of the state’ (Art. 333 of the Penal Code) in connection to the comments he made about the president and the authorities. However, after reviewing photos and hearing medical testimony, the judge ordered his immediate release on the basis that he was suffering from severe hemorrhoids which required urgent medical attention. The Public Prosecutor’s Office submitted an appeal to the Court of Appeal, which is still pending.
Tanaice Neutro urgently requires surgery to treat his hemorrhoids. He has been getting severe headaches and fever, and it is extremely painful for him to empty his bowels, which means he cannot eat the food given to him. There are also grave concerns for his mental health as he has expressed suicidal thoughts on numerous occasions. The denial of access to adequate medical care may amount to torture or other ill-treatment.
I urge you to immediately release Tanaice Neutro, as ordered by the judge, and to ensure that his conviction is quashed as it stems solely from the exercise of his right to freedom of expression. Pending his release, he must be urgently granted with access to adequate healthcare, including, if necessary, outside prison.