Angolan activists freed after independence day arrests

The gardens of the Presidential Palace, in Luanda (AFP Photo/Alain Jocard) (AFP/File)

Luanda (AFP) - Twelve Angolan activists who were arrested for demanding the resignation of president Jose Eduardo dos Santos as the country marked 40 years of independence, have been released, police said Thursday.

All 12, who are linked to the revolutionary youth movement of detained dissident rapper Luaty Beirao, were arrested on Wednesday during a protest march but freed a day later, police spokesman Mateus Rodrigue said.

Paulo Quissanga, one of the detainees, also confirmed to AFP by phone that they had been released.

Prominent rights activists Raul Mandela and Emiliano Catombela were among those arrested after crossing a police roadblock in the capital Luanda where security was tight for the celebrations which were attended by several foreign leaders.

Dos Santos, 73, has ruled the oil-rich former Portuguese colony since 1979.

His critics accuse him of overseeing corruption, misrule, arbitrary arrests and intimidation in a country that suffers endemic poverty despite being Africa's second-largest oil producer.

Rapper Beirao and 14 colleagues are due to stand trial on Monday on charges of seeking to overthrow the president.

In a speech during the independence celebrations, Dos Santos vowed to "respect human rights and basic freedoms" in Angola.