24 April 2018

Angola: Another Day in Court

Photo: Maka Angola
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opinion

Today I returned to court. The judge was in no mood for jokes, berating me for my public criticism of what was decided in the previous session.

Judge Josina Ferreira Falcão ruled today against the request made last week by the plaintiff, former attorney general João Maria de Sousa. At the 11th hour, General Maria de Sousa's counsel requested another postponement because his client had to travel to Portugal.

On April 16, attorney João Pedro cited special privileges and immunity to justify General Maria de Sousa's no-show in court. He further requested that the proceedings be moved to the Office of the Attorney General. The judged ruled in favor of the requests.

However, last Friday afternoon, the court called to inform me that General Maria de Sousa had requested another postponement. Then, on Monday afternoon, the court notified me that the trial would proceed the following morning at Luanda's Provincial Court.

The judge used much of the time to teach us as a "lesson" about the rule of law. She stressed time and again that she would not allow anyone to question her independence. She tried to highlight how competent she was by flipping back and forth between the Penal and Civil Codes to cite the articles that informed her decision for the "questioning" of the former attorney general to take place in the Office of the Attorney General. "Not the trial", she insisted.

Once again, portraying herself as strictly law-abiding, she said that if the plaintiff had not travelled to Portugal we would have gone to the attorney general's office to "question" the plaintiff.

Then, she read out her decision against the request for postponement, which she defined as disrespectful to the court. She also waived the need to question the plaintiff, and thus he no longer needs to show up in court.

My lawyer, Brigadier Horácio Junjuvili (ret.), denounced the delaying tactics of the plaintiff, and requested that the case be thrown out for lack of interest from the same person who lodged the complaint. I noticed that hardly anything my lawyer says of a critical nature makes it to the court records. He insisted that in the interest of the truth, I would not give up the right to have the plaintiff heard in court.

Well, the judge said, she had no way of bringing him to court, unless she issued a coercive order for him to be dragged there. Finally, the judge brightened up to one of her jokes, and said that the moment she issued such an order, General João Maria de Sousa would not return from Portugal. The runaway plaintiff is having it all.

My lawyer insisted. The judge replied that it was up to me if I wanted this proceeding to be dragged on without an end in sight, and shelved on her desk. She made it clear that there would be no assurances of the former attorney general showing up in court. She had also spent quite sometime, during her "lesson", explaining that the plaintiff and the witness had the same prerogatives. She noted that even though the defendant could request the plaintiff be heard in court, the latter had the option of refusing.

When General João Maria de Sousa lodged the criminal complaint against me, and fellow journalist Mariano Brás who printed my exposé, he was still the Attorney General of Angola. He was still in that position when the case landed on the desk of judge Josina Falcão for the trial.

The behavior of this former attorney general is mind-boggling. He even challenged me during a recent interview, stating how he would see me in court and find out how much courage I had to face him. I had said before that I would call him corrupt to his face during the court proceedings.

Judge Josina Falcão said that my insistence on the testimony of the plaintiff would lead to the postponement of the hearing of witnesses the following day. These are the officers of the land registration office in the coastal province of Kwanza-Sul, who could clarify the procedures that led General João Maria to have a title deed for three acres of beachfront land to build a private condominium. I wrote, back in 2016, that he got the land through corrupt means. He then had the public prosecution charge me with the crimes of insult to public authority, and outrage to a body of sovereignty under the Law on Crimes against the State Security. The last one was for mentioning that President Dos Santos protected the corrupt.

I signaled to my lawyer to waive my right to confront the culprit or the plaintiff - now it seems to be same - in the courtroom, so that we can ask tough questions to the witnesses tomorrow.

The judge wants us to pay for the expenses of the witnesses, for their trip to Luanda, in case we insist on what she terms "the duel" between me and the former AG in court.

Attorney João Pedro, the plaintiff's lawyer, agreed to fully pay their expenses. We are not having it.

Finally, the judge had another pressing matter. An interview I gave to Radio France International. She spent quite sometime looking for the audio on her smartphone, and put it loud for everyone to hear. She was very upset for my distrust of how justice is dispensed in Angola, for she did not want to be mixed up with bad apples. I replied that I would be happy to explain myself about the content of the interview upon her lodging a criminal complaint. She replied that she would not do it, to avoid granting me a wish.

Well, I am not a masochist wishing to go back to that court for another trial.

We shall see tomorrow.

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