By Michelle Graff
Luanda--A reporter who authored a book detailing abuses in the diamond fields of Angola and was just honored for his contribution to free speech now faces trial in his home country at the hands of those he implicated.

Rafael Marques de Morais went on trial Tuesday to face charges of criminal defamation brought by seven generals, all of whom are shareholders in the companies (among them Sociedade Mineira do Cuango, or SMC, and ITM-Mining) accused of human rights abuses in his 2011 book, Blood Diamonds: Torture and Corruption in Angola.

Originally, the journalist was set to face nine counts of defamation but, following his first day in court, he now faces up to 15 additional counts, according to a tweet posted on his Twitter account Tuesday.

The trial has been adjourned until April 23 to give his lawyers time to address the new charges, and will be closed to the press when it continues, news sources report.

If convicted, de Morais faces prison time and could be forced to pay damages upward of $1 million.

An independent journalist operating in Angola, de Morais published Blood Diamonds in Portugal in 2011. The book details more than 500 cases of torture and 100 killings allegedly carried out by guards of a private security firm called Teleservice and soldiers in the Angolan Armed Forces in the Lunda Norte province in northeastern Angola.

Last Wednesday, he received the Index on Censorship’s 2015 Freedom of Expression award for journalism at a ceremony held in London. This Tuesday, he was back in Angola.

As de Morais explains in this piece published Monday by British daily newspaper The Guardian, he is not on trial for the content of the book but for “having lodged a complaint against the generals for their moral responsibility in the events.”

The complaint to which he refers is a 2011 charge he filed with the Angolan Attorney General calling on authorities to investigate the generals, the owners of Teleservice and SMC shareholders for the alleged abuses. The attorney general set that case aside.

The generals attempted to sue de Morais and the Lisbon-based publisher of his book for libel and defamation, but the Portuguese Attorney General dismissed the case.

The generals then brought the case to Angola. However, they couldn’t try him again on the same charges brought in Portugal due to double-jeopardy laws, so new charges were drafted on the basis that de Morais defamed the generals when he tried to sue them in 2011.

Mauricio Lazala, the deputy director of the London-based Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, told National Jeweler on Thursday that it has written to three major players in the industry--Tiffany & Co., Signet Jewelers Ltd. and De Beers, as well as Chicago independent Leber Jeweler--asking them to issue public statements of support for de Morais.

The Centre, a nonprofit that works to increase transparency and accountability in business and human rights, then will disseminate these statements via its website, e-newsletter and connections with journalists worldwide.

Leber Jeweler is submitting a statement and Lazala said they are waiting on responses from Tiffany, Signet and De Beers. 

Brian Leber of Leber Jeweler said he’s known de Morais for years and has long supported his efforts to bring attention to the human rights abuses committed against artisanal diamond miners and their families in Angola.

“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,” Leber said.

This is not the first time de Morais has seen the inside of a courtroom for speaking out.

He spent 43 days in jail in 1999 after calling the Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who has ruled for the country for 35 years, a “dictator and corrupt man.”

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