Agency demands that Angola drop charges against activist

LONDON – A British Catholic aid agency has demanded that charges are dropped against a British activist who was arrested in Angola.

Sarah Wykes, who works for the nongovernmental organization Global Witness, was taken from her hotel Feb. 18 by armed police in the oil-rich province of Cabinda and imprisoned amid accusations of espionage. She was released on bail three days later but never was given details of the charges, and is forbidden to leave the country.

The Catholic Agency for Overseas Development, or CAFOD, called on “the Angolan government to drop all charges against” Wykes “immediately and unconditionally and to allow her to leave Angola at once.”

In a Feb. 28 statement, CAFOD said that “the safety of those who speak out on issues of transparency and corruption is a growing concern for CAFOD.”

CAFOD, the overseas aid agency of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, is part of the Publish What You Pay international anti-corruption campaign, which is among the many international organizations demanding that charges against Wykes are dropped.

Wykes, who was born in York, England, was visiting the western African nation to assess progress made on improving the transparency of the country’s oil sector. Her work included researching the government and oil trade’s money trail in Angola, where the population lives in extreme poverty despite its high oil-export revenue.

CAFOD called Wykes “a respected international campaigner working to reduce corruption in the oil and gas industries.”

A spokesman for Global Witness said the organization was “very, very concerned” for her welfare.

Global Witness is an international nongovernmental organization with offices in London and Washington which seeks to expose the links between natural resource exploitation, conflict, poverty, corruption and human rights abuses.

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.