Human Rights Victory in Angola!!

Billboard showing portraits of the victims of an attack on the bus carrying the Togo national football team.

Billboard showing portraits of the victims of an attack on the bus carrying the Togo national football team.

Today, four persons incarcerated in Angola were released from prison following a decision by the Attorney General their conviction was based on outdated legislation. Francisco Luemba, a lawyer, Raul Tati, a Catholic priest, and two others were convicted in August under a 1978 statute of the crime of “other acts against the security of the state” over an attack on the Togo national soccer team in the Cabinda region of Angola. Amnesty International declared them prisoners of conscience.

Luemba and Tati were members of the now banned human rights organization Mpalabanda and for many years publicly criticized the Angolan government and the Front for the Liberation of the Cabinda State FLEC – an armed group fighting for secession of Cabinda. FLEC claimed responsibility for the attack on the Togo national soccer team. Cabinda is a sliver of land between the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Republic of Congo. The region is internationally recognized as part of Angola and produces a substantial part of the country’s oil exports.

“Cabinda’s public prosecutor confirmed that the men have now been released and reunited with their families.”

Amnesty USA called on activists since August to take action to secure these men’s release as Amnesty believed their conviction was based on both an unfair trial and legislation violative of international human rights norms. You took up the candle and passed it along. Thanks to your efforts, these men are free today. Once again, Amnesty activists, YOU ROCK!!

Solidarity (and Suspension) on the Soccer Field

June 19 Update: Any soccer players that were seen wearing the green wristbands have been suspended for “government interference”.

The Iranian soccer team was seen clad with green wristbands during their World Cup qualifying match against South Korea.

Green is the signature color of the mass Iranian movement for former presidential candidate Mir Hussein Musavi. Daily protests against the re-election of Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, numbering in the tens of thousands, have become virtual seas of green–with participants sporting green-colored headbands, shirts, and posters.

While there is no confirmation that the soccer team wore the wristbands in support of Musavi, it is not customary for players to wear wristbands at all.

Soccer has long been the sport of choice in Iran by both men and women. There’s a fantastic Iranian film called “Offside” about a group of women who try to sneak into a soccer match (interestingly enough, a match that determines whether Iran will compete in the World Cup) dressed up as men. It is directed by Jafar Panahi, one of Iran’s most influential and acclaimed directors. NPR has a great review on their website here, and you can also see a trailer on YouTube. Check it out!

Samah Choudhury contributed to this post