Accused of sheltering her boyfriend and his friends in her home, she was arrested, taken to prison and tortured. When she was eventually brought to trial, she was not allowed to reply to any of the charges laid against her, and her protests that she'd been tortured and starved were futile.
Women in Equatorial Guinea, like men, are under threat of arbitrary arrest and detention for days, weeks, or even months, with no reason given and no trial. Once behind bars they face terrible prison conditions.
Women in prisons are especially at risk of sexual abuse. In the past there have been several reports of sexual abuse of women prisoners - in once case, women were reportedly forced to dance naked for the police, in other instances, women were forced to sell sexual favours in exchange for food. Tourture is routine.
Maria's case is not unique. Across the world, women are targeted because of their relationhips with men wanted by the authorities. Wives, children, companions, sisters and mothers have been killed, tortured and imprisoned to get men to give themselves up, to confess, or sometimes just in acts of rage when soldiers and police cannot find their real targets (Amnesty International).
If you'd like to write a letter, the Human Rights Action Group will be glad to give you more information on how to do it, and also an aerogram and stamp!
Heidi Bentz Ashe