- British anti-corruption activist Sarah Wykes is still unable to leave the Angolan province Cabinda although she was bailed from prison yesterday afternoon. The veteran activist was arrested on a fact-finding mission in oil-rich Cabinda, facing charges of spying.
Dr Wykes is a veteran activist for London-based Global Witness, specialised on anti-corruption work for civil society organisations. She was looking into the transparency culture in the oil-rich and war-ravaged exclave of Cabinda whan suddenly arrested by local police.
Yesterday afternoon, Ms Wykes was bailed from prison and told she will go on trial for espionage. Her bail conditions require that she seek permission from Angolan authorities if she wants to leave the country, according to Global Witness.
The activist had hoped to be able to leave Cabinda and head for the capital Luanda today, but was unable to do so as police had not returned her passport in time for her to board the last plane to Luanda. "She was questioned again by the Cabindan authorities but has still not received any official documentation as to the charges against her," a statement by her organisation said.
Her lawyer in Cabinda, Francisco Lwemba, said he was unable to gain access to the relevant documentation relating to her charges and bail conditions. Therefore, it also remained uncertain whether Ms Wykes would be able to leave Cabinda within short.
Even if let go to Luanda, Ms Wykes probably may have to stay in Angola for months if espionage charges against her are not dropped. Bail conditions for a person facing such serious charges will not allow for leaving the country, and lawyer Lwemba expects the case to become "a lengthy process" in any way.
Ms Wykes was picked up while meeting with civil society groups, companies and the government to assess progress made on improving the transparency of the money from the Angola's oil sector, which constitutes the majority of the government's budget. Angola has often been criticised for lack of transparency and corruption in the handling of its vast oil revenues.
Global Witness and the Berlin-based anti-corruption organisation Transparency International (TI) have called the espionage charges against Ms Wykes "baseless" and urged for her immediate and unconditional release. TI also said it was concerned about the long-term effects Dr Wyke's arrest may have on civil society's ability to improve transparency and accountability in Angola, a country that so far has made little progress in fighting corruption.
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