37 ex-opposition fighters face coup charges in Angola

UNITA denied the accusations at a news conference.

Province de Luanda: Thirty-seven former fighters from Angola`s main UNITA opposition party go on trial Friday accused of attempting to stage a coup earlier this year, the state news agency Angop reported on Thursday.

Members of the group face charges of planning an armed assault against the presidential palace in Luanda and of occupying the premises of

Angola`s national public television and radio, on 31 January 2016, according to the charge sheet.

All are former members of the armed wing of the ex-rebel movement-turned-opposition party, the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), the prosecutor told Angop.

UNITA denied the accusations at a news conference.

The party`s parliamentary group leader, Adalberto da Costa Junior, said it was "not the first time" that the Angolan authorities had "used this type of accusation to denigrate the opposition." 

The prosecutor said the case had been kept under wraps for many months "to avoid unnecessary speculation and panic among the population."

Authorities are still looking for 20 other suspects in connection with the coup bid.

President Jose Eduardo Dos Santos, 74, has ruled the oil producing nation with an iron fist for 37 years. 

The country holds elections next year and dos Santos, 74, is expected to stand again and hold onto office as he has since 1979.

In March, 17 political activists were convicted and sentenced to between two and eight years for acts of rebellion. They were granted amnesty last month.

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