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Angola delays ‘coup’ trial of 37 suspects


Angola President Jose Eduardo Dos Santos  / AFP PHOTO / ALAIN JOCARD

Angola President Jose Eduardo Dos Santos / AFP PHOTO / ALAIN JOCARD

Angola on Friday postponed the trial of 37 alleged former fighters from the main UNITA opposition group who are accused of a mysterious coup attempt in January.

The trial has been pushed back to December 2 “at the request of defence lawyers”, Luanda court judge Joao Pedro Fuantoni told reporters.

In a surprise announcement, the Angolan state news agency Angop reported Thursday that members of the former armed wing of UNITA had attempted a coup against President Jose Eduardo dos Santos in January.

They are accused of planning an armed assault on the presidential palace in Luanda, as well as plotting to attack public television and radio stations.

The National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), which was the main rebel group during a 27-year civil war and is now the main opposition party, has denied the accusations.

Judge Fuantoni said 35 suspects were arrested and two others were still on the run.

They face charges of criminal association, attempted assassination of the head of state and illegal possession of firearms, said the judge.

“After the trial everything will be clear, we will know whether or not they had political motives,” he said.

President dos Santos, 74, has ruled one of Africa’s top oil-producing nations with an iron fist for 37 years.

The country holds elections next year and dos Santos is expected to stand again.

Angola’s bloody conflict, which drew in Cold War rivals and South Africa, started after independence from Portugal in 1975 and ended after the killing of UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi in 2002.

In March, 17 political activists were convicted and sentenced to between two and eight years in jail for acts of rebellion. They were granted amnesty last month.

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