JOHANNESBURG (AP) — An academic and a journalist have been acquitted of libel charges stemming from a Facebook post criticizing Mozambique’s former president, their lawyer said on Wednesday.
A judge ruled that criticizing the president was not defamation, defense lawyer Alvaro Pinto Basto said.
“The expression contained was not defamation, it was not a crime,” said Basto. “My clients are very happy.”
Economist Carlos Nuno Castel-Branco was charged under a state security law for criticizing Mozambique’s former president in a 2013 Facebook post, rights group Amnesty International said. Castel-Branco, an associate professor at Eduardo Mondlane University, wrote an open letter on social media questioning how then President Armando Guebuza ran the southern African country.
Newspaper editor Fernando Mbanze was prosecuted for abusing press freedom by republishing the commentary, Amnesty International said.
“Both men were simply exercising their right to freedom of expression by speaking out about the governance of Mozambique on social media and in a newspaper. That is clearly not a crime,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Southern Africa director.
In Angola, a human rights activist was convicted with “rebellion” for organizing a peaceful demonstration, rights groups said.
José Marcos Mavungo was arrested in March this year. After a court found no evidence against him, the state continued to detain him while investigating further, according to a statement from several rights groups. He was later charged with rebellion and convicted.
Mavungo’s conviction may set a precedent for the 16 other Angolans detained under similar charges, the rights groups said.
“It intensifies our concerns that these individuals are unlikely to receive a fair trial,” said Jacob van Garderen of Lawyers for Human Rights in South Africa.
LYNSEY CHUTEL, Associated Press
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