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Togo Soccer Team Ambusher Sentenced to 24 Years – SportsUntapped.com
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Added December 31st, 2010 by Ian

Togo Soccer Team Ambusher Sentenced to 24 Years
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One of the sickest sports stories in 2010, or any type of story for that matter, involved the attack on the team bus of the Togo national soccer team in Angola in January. Some form of justice has been handed down as an attacker named Joao Antonio Prati was sentenced to 24 years in jail by an Angolan court on Dec. 29th for his part in the ambush which took place in the country’s Cabinda province. The attack took place just before the African Cup of Nations soccer tournament got underway.

According to Cabinda attorney general Antonio Nito, the court analyzed the evidence and facts of the case and was satisfied that Puati had a role in the deadly incident that killed two Togo team members and injured several more. He was found guilty on the charge of armed rebellion. The ambush lasted for about 30 minutes as attackers fired automatic weapons at the bus. Responsibility for the attack was claimed by the Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda (FLEC).

This group has been fighting for independence for the last 30 years in the oil-rich area. It’s estimated that Angola produces most of the 1.8 million barrels of oil a day off of Cabinda’s coast, but the region is among the country’s poorest. Puati originally pleaded not guilty when his trial got underway and he claimed that he didn’t have any type of connection to the separatist group that claimed responsibility for the killings. Another accused man named Daniel Simbai ended up being acquitted in court on the same charges Puati faced.

Nito told the press that Puati was present during the attack and his link with the FLEC group was established during the legal proceedings. However, a BBC correspondent reported that defence lawyers for Puati have appealed to the Supreme Court of Angola. The lawyers claimed that the prosecution didn’t connect their client to FLEC during the case. They also claimed that the evidence was taken from statements made by the police, which they said were given by Puati while he was in custody.

In fact, a defence lawyer named Arao Tempo stated to the BBC that Puati had actually been tortured while he was in jail and was forced to confess his involvement and connection with FLEC. Tempo added that the jail sentence was nothing more than a political one. He said the sentencing is just a warning to FLEC and its supporters. Four human-rights activists who were arrested over the ambush were let out of jail last week. Some human-rights groups have said Angola is using the ambush as a way to justify cracking down on the nation’s critics in Cabinda.

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