THE Angolan government has unexpectedly released a local journalist who
had been in jail for the last two years on charges of threateningÃƒâ€šÃ‚Â
state security, writes Gilberto Neto for journalism.co.za.
Jose Lelo, correspondent for Voice of America in the oil-rich enclave of Cabinda, was arrested in 2007 amid an outcry from civil society, the media and the opposition. He was tried and found guilty in 2008 of supporting the separatist group Front for the Liberation of Cabinda (Flec) and sentenced to 12 years in a high-security prison.
Lelo has now been unexpectedly been freed, and authorities have given no reason. His lawyer, Jose Nombo, says he may demand compensation for the two years Lelo was kept behind bars.
Various international organizations condemned the arrest and conviction of the journalist. London-based Amnesty International said at the time that the trial had been unfair and, in a letter to the Angolan President and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, demanded the release of the journalist.
Flec has waged a guerrilla campaign for independence for the oil-rich Cabinda province since the country gained its independence from Portugal in 1975. The government has banned human rights organizations and arrested several activities and journalists, in a series of events strongly condemned by the international community.