An unprecedented legal battle for freedom of expression began today in Portugal.
The Portuguese judicial authorities, charged Bárbara Bulhosa, the head of publishing house Tinta-da-China, for defamation and slander, after nine Angolan generals sued her for having published the book Blood Diamonds: Corruption and Torture in Angola. The book, by Angolan journalist Rafael Marques, is a chilling account of systemic and blatant human rights violations against local populations in the Lundas’ diamond region, in Northeastern Angola. The book includes detailed testimonies of victims of torture and of family members of artisanal miners assassinated by members of private security companies and soldiers of the Angolan Armed Forces.
The nine Angolan generals are shareholders of the diamond mining company Sociedade Mineira do Cuango, and of the private security firm Teleservice, which provides services for the former. Mr. Marques’ book, published in Portugal in 2011, details several cases of murder with more than 100 victims, and dozens of torture cases with more than 500 victims, many of which perpetrated by security guards of Teleservice, and some in the premises of Sociedade Mineira do Cuango.
Last November, the Portuguese judicial authorities charged Mr. Marques. The author is an Angolan national, living in Angola, but the generals chose to prosecute him in Portugal. Both author and publisher are now under the coercive measure of statement of identity and residence.
According to Ms. Bulhosa, “this is a political process of intimidation” and a case of “pressure over all publishers who may come across manuscripts covering sensitive issues in which powerful people are involved.”
One of the plaintiffs is general Hélder Vieira Dias “Kopelipa,” Minister of State and head of the Military Bureau in the Angolan presidency, one of the most powerful figures in Angola and a key member in President Dos Santos’ inner circle.