Africa

Angola jails man for 24 years over Togo bus attack

TV grab of Emmanuel Adebayor following the shooting which killed members of the Togolese football team in Cabinda, January 2010.
Image caption The Togolese team was on its way to the tournament in January when the bus was attacked

An Angolan court has sentenced a man to 24 years in jail for the deadly attack on Togo's football team in January.

Joao Antonio Puati's lawyer told the AFP news agency he was found guilty for committing "armed rebellion".

The bus carrying the team was attacked in the province of Cabinda as it arrived for the African Cup of Nations.

Mr Puati had pleaded not guilty at the opening of his trial and denied having links to a separatist group which said it was behind the shooting.

Another man, Daniel Simbai, was acquitted of the same charges.

Two Togolese officials were killed in the 30-minute gun attack which a faction of the Front for the Liberation of the State of Cabinda (Flec) said it carried out.

'Tortured'

"Joao Antonio Puati was at the scene and his link with Flec was established during the trial," Antonio Nito, Cabinda's attorney general, told AFP.

The BBC's former Angola correspondent Louise Redvers says the defence lawyers have put in an appeal to the Supreme Court.

They say the link to Flec was not established during the trial, but came from police statements taken from Puati during his time in custody.

Defence lawyer Arao Tempo told the BBC that his client, had been tortured in prison and forced to admit he was connected to Flec.

He added that the decision to sentence Mr Puati, who is from Congo-Brazzaville, while absolving his Angolan co-accused, was a highly political one.

It was about sending a message to Congo-Brazzaville, where many Flec members and supporters are known to live and operate, he said.

Last week, four human rights activists arrested over the January attack were released from prison.

Rights organisations have accused Angola of using the raid on the Togolese team to justify a crackdown on its critics in the province of Cabinda.

Flec has been fighting for three decades for independence in Cabinda, an area separated from Angola by a strip of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Despite being rich in oil, the region is one of the poorest in the country.

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