LUANDA, Angola – Seven months in jail — the first few days without food, water or visitors — have only strengthened the resolve of an Angolan human rights activist, he told The Associated Press a week after his release.
Antonio Paca Panzo responded by e-mail to AP questions Monday. Last week, after seven months and 12 days imprisoned in Angola's oil-rich, politically troubled Cabinda region, he was freed because of lack of evidence.
Panzo was apparently arrested for having T-shirts emblazoned with the faces of four activists who had been arrested in January and were accused of responsibility in a deadly attack on the Togo team bus as it headed to the African Cup of Nations.
Panzo said visitors were barred, he was denied food and water for the first three days, and he was forced to sleep on the floor with no blanket. The smell of feces and urine was "nauseating," he said.
"Even if I had had food it wouldn't have been easy to keep anything down in those conditions," he said. "I wouldn't like anyone else to go through that, which is why I believe the fight for human rights must go on."
Angolan police have been accused of rounding up peaceful rights activists and accusing them of responsibility in the attack on the Togo team this year.
"The policy was to detain and control the movements of all the critics of the Cabinda regime whether they were charged of crimes or not," Panzo said.
Angola's government has repeatedly denied accusations of human rights abuses in Cabinda.
Two Togolese were killed in the Jan. 8 attack claimed by the separatist Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda at the start of a regional soccer tournament that Angola had hoped would showcase its recovery from decades of civil war.
Cabinda's armed groups have been weakened by factional fighting. But periodic announcements from the Angolan government that the Cabinda uprising has been quelled — either by force or negotiations — have been followed by new outbreaks of violence.
The small coastal enclave north of Angola, wedged between Congo and the much smaller Republic of Congo, is Angola's main oil-producing region. The people of Cabinda remain poor despite the oil revenues, and human rights groups have repeatedly accused the government of hiding oil money, making it impossible to trace.
Angola is among Africa's top oil producers.