Angola ‘use dogs to disperse rally at activists’ trial’

LUANDA — Angolan police arrested 42 people after unleashing dogs to break up a crowd of hundreds of young activists gathered outside a court in the capital Luanda, witnesses said Friday.

Five people were injured by dog bites outside the court late Thursday, where 24 activists were appearing before a judge, following their weekend arrest at an anti-government protest that was violently dispersed, according to an AFP reporter.

Two Angolan journalists were arrested, along with members of the opposition UNITA’s youth wing, said Sebastiao Salakiaku, spokesman for the group. Around 300 people had gathered outside the courthouse.

“We want to tell the country and the world that it was not the youth who began the trouble last Saturday at Independence Plaza in Luanda. It was mainly the police,” he told AFP.

The protest last weekend left 10 people injured when authorities broke up the rally that drew 300 young people, including several prominent rappers known for their anti-government lyrics.

The protesters denounced human rights abuses, shortages of water and electricity, and the grinding poverty that most Angolans endure despite the country’s rapid, oil-fueled growth.

A police spokesman told AFP on Monday that they “regretted what happened at the protest” and that they were looking into claims by activists that one youth had been kidnapped by well-organised armed men in civilian clothes.

David Mendes, lawyer for the detained protesters, blamed police for the unrest.

“The trial judge has no evidence to convict them,” he told AFP. “We will use this trial to prove their innocence.”

“It was the police who provoked the unrest, not the youth,” he added.

The hearing was set to resume Friday.
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