The Oxford-educated Marques, who runs the news website Maka Angola, is no stranger to Angola's courts
Luanda (AFP) - An Angolan court on Thursday sentenced a prominent anti-corruption activist to a six-month suspended jail term for defaming army generals in a book about violence in the country's diamond mining industry.
Rafael Marques, an outspoken campaigner and journalist, had earlier expected to be freed after an apparent deal was reached last week to drop all the charges against him.
But judge Adriano Cerveira said he had "decided, on behalf of the people, to give Rafael Marques de Morais, accused of the crime of slander... a single (suspended) sentence of six months in prison."
The court also ordered Marques to "withdraw the book from the market, including on the Internet, and not to republish or translate it".
In his book, which was published in Portugal in 2011, Marques accused the generals of being behind torture and killings committed by soldiers and private guards hired to protect diamond concessions in the northeastern Lundas region.
"This decision shows that it is the generals who are ruling and they can manipulate things to suit them," Marques said after the sentencing, insisting he had been "tricked".
His lawyer David Mendes vowed to appeal, and said that Marques might ignore the order not to re-issue the book.
The sentence was higher than the one-month suspended term that the prosecution asked for earlier this week.
- 'Activists targeted' -
Global rights groups say human rights activists and journalists are increasingly being targeted by the regime of President Jose Eduardo dos Santos in the oil-rich country.
In an open letter to the president, 50 groups including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International expressed concern that the agreement with the generals to drop the charges had been "reversed".
"This case reflects a broader deterioration in the environment for freedom of expression in Angola, including the increasing use of criminal defamation lawsuits against journalists and routine police abuse of... activists," it said.
Jeffrey Smith, Africa programme officer for the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights group, accused the Angolan judicial system of brazenly fixing the case.
"This is obviously part of a larger attempt to stifle human rights reporting in Angola, and they are using Rafael Marques to set an example," Smith said.
Fernando Oliveira, a lawyer representing IMT Mining, one of the companies cited in Marques' book, welcomed the court's decision to ban future sales of the book but refused to comment on the sentence.
The 43-year-old Oxford educated Marques has been arrested and detained several times for exposing corruption.
Neither Marques, the military generals nor defence witnesses were called to to testify during the hearing that lasted five days spanning over nine weeks.
"I lost two sons -- a year apart -- killed by members of the security forces while they were looking for diamonds," one of the key defence witnesses, Linda Moises da Rosa, told AFP on the sidelines of the hearing.
"Even today, they (security forces) continue to kill diamond diggers saying that you should not touch the stones because they belong to the government," she said.
The generals, including one of President Dos Santos' closest allies, had originally claimed $1.2 million (1.1 million euros) in damages.