Trial of Angolan

Posted on Friday, May 1st, 2015 at 10:07 am by Diamond Jim

Blood Diamond Journalist Rafael de Morais.jpg

Trial of Angolan ‘Blood Diamonds’ journalist delayed

By Michelle Graff

National Jeweler

May 01, 2015

Rafael Marques de Morais, an investigative journalist in Angola and head of watchdog organization Maka Angola (Photo credit: Maka Angola)

Luanda--The trial of Angolan investigative journalist Rafael Marques de Morais, who is being charged with libel by those he implicated in his book exposing corruption and abuse in the country’s diamond industry, will not resume again until mid-May, if at all.

Though de Morais could not be reached for comment Thursday, Sarah Hager, who works for Amnesty International U.S.A. and has been in close contact with de Morais for years, said that his trial, which originally was set to resume April 23, was adjourned again, this time until May 14.

She said two of the mining companies and the seven generals who brought criminal defamation charges against de Morais for his 2011 book, Blood Diamonds: Torture and Corruption in Angola, are trying to work toward a settlement with the journalist, the terms of which have not been made public.

As of last Thursday, a third mining company involved in the case, ITM Mining Ltd., had indicated that it was not interested in negotiating with de Morais and wanted to move forward with the trial.

Hager said it is unclear at this point what will happen in de Morais’s case. However, if he is forced to return to trial, Amnesty International will continue to advocate that the charges against the journalist be dismissed, she said.

De Morais, who heads the anti-corruption watchdog organization Maka Angola, went on trial in his home country on March 24, just a few days after he had been in London receiving an award for his contribution to free speech from an organization called the Index on Censorship.

The trial of de Morais has evoked international outcry from a number of organizations, including Chicago independent Leber Jeweler and Tiffany & Co., both of which issued public statements in support of de Morais at the behest of the London-based Business & Human Rights Resource Centre.

Brian Leber told National Jeweler back when de Morais’ trial started that “If Angola is to be part of the global community and if Angola’s diamonds are being sold by U.S. retailers to U.S. consumers, then Angola has a fundamental obligation to observe the rights of Rafael Marques (de Morais) to both freedom of speech and freedom of the press.”

Tiffany has not responded to National Jeweler’s inquiries regarding its stance on de Morais’s trial but signed onto the same statement as Leber Jeweler calling on the government to drop its case against de Morais.

A third industry player, De Beers, was asked by the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre to publicly declare its support for de Morais.

When asked about this request, the diamond mining and marketing giant said that it was inappropriate to comment on an ongoing legal process but noted that “De Beers, of course, stands firmly against abuses of human rights wherever they may occur.”

If convicted, de Morais faces jail time and could be forced to pay damages totaling more than $1 million.