Angola arrests a third rights activist in Cabinda

17 Jan 2010 18:37:39 GMT

Source: Reuters

* Leading human rights activist arrested in Cabinda

* Arrest is third this week after priest, academic taken in

* Arrests take place after attack on Togo soccer team

(Adds comment from minister and former FLEC fighter)

By Henrique Almeida

CABINDA, Angola, Jan 17 (Reuters) - A leading human rights activist was arrested in Cabinda on Sunday, a lawyer said, as Angolan authorities continue their investigation into an attack there on Togo's soccer team last week.

Francisco Luemba, a former member of the only human rights organisation in Cabinda, which was banned by the government in 2006, was arrested on Sunday, said Martinho Nombo, a lawywer in Cabinda who was also part of the Mpalabanda human rights group.

Two other members of the now-defunct organisation were arrested this week: priest Raul Tati and university professor Tati Belchior, said Nombo, adding that he fears he is next in line to be arrested.

"It seems like all members of Mpalabanda are being arrested. I could be next," said Nombo. A former police officer, with no links to Mpalabanda was also arrested this week and accused of crimes against the state.

Minister without portfolio and former FLEC fighter Antonio Bento-Bembe confirmed people had been detained for questioning as part of a continuing investigation into the Togo team attack.

"The authorities have taken people in for questioning in order to find out who is repsonsible for the attack," he said.

Cabindan prosecutor Antonio Nito declined to comment on the reasons for Luemba's arrest. "It's Sunday afternoon. I don't have an answer for your questions today," he said.

The arrests took place after last week's Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda (FLEC) attack killed two people in Togo's bus en route for the African Nations Cup -- the continent's top soccer tournament.


Human Rights Watch (HRW), which has documented a disturbing pattern of human rights violations by the Angolan armed forces and state intelligence officials in Cabinda, warned last week that Luemba's arrest was imminent.

Researcher Lisa Rimli said in an email that HRW organisation had received "concrete indications that the detention of members of the civil society were being carried out".

"Among others, we received information of the imminent detention of a lawyer, Francisco Luemba, apparently for being accused of inciting violence in material included in a history book published in 2008 which he wrote," Rimli said.

Tensions remained high on the streets of Cabinda over a week after the attack, which embarrassed an Angolan government eager to host the Nations Cup to showcase a gradual recovery from decades of civil war.

Members of Angola's special forces, dubbed "Ninjas" for their all-black uniform, have been seen patrolling the streets of this small province separated from Angola by a strip of land belonging to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Police helicopters patrol the skies on match days.

Angolan authorities have asked Cabindans to name names of people linked to FLEC, Alexis Betaia, a resident in Cabinda, told Reuters.

Officially, only two FLEC insurgents have been arrested in connection to the Jan. 8 attack branded by the government as an "act of terrorism". The arrests took place immediately after the attack, according to a recent government statement.

The FLEC has fought a 30-year war against Angola's government for independence. One grievance is that Cabindans see little of the money from oil that comes from their land. (Reporting by Henrique Almeida; Additional reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Louise Ireland)


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