Maputo — The Mozambican Public Prosecutor's Office is appealing against the decision by a Beira judge to release two men accused of the kidnapping and murder of two children, aged eight and ten, in the Beira neighbourhood of Macarungo.
The bodies of the two children, Ozeias Arão dos Santos and Augusto Luís Julai, were found in February in a shallow pit inside an unfinished house in Macarungo. Examination on the spot showed that they had both been killed by blows to the head with blunt objects. A disturbing detail, given at the time by the Maputo daily "Noticias", was that the genitals of the two boys had been cut off.
The police detained three suspects. One of them, Nelson Gentil, confessed to the kidnapping but said he had nothing to with the murders.
He blamed the crimes on an unnamed friend who "promised me 100,000 meticais (about 3,530 US dollars, at current exchange rates) if I managed to abduct a child.
But I got two. I left several times to check the outside of the house, and when I returned from one of these trips outside, I found the children dead and buried. It wasn't me who killed them".
The other two detainees, Ricardo Jemusse and Juvencio Guambe, told the police they had nothing to do with the crime. Juvencio Alexandre, a neighbour of Gentil, said he saw the children playing with Gentil on the afternoon of the day they were kidnapped.
According to the families, the kidnappers tried to negotiate over the phone, but never actually fixed a ransom figure. The father of Massada is regarded in the area as relatively rich, and the mother of Ozeias Arao is a member of a Special Unit of the Mozambican riot police (FIR).
On 31 July, a Beira judge, Joao Guilherme Mchuembo, caused outrage in the city when he ordered the release of Jemusse and Guambe, on the grounds that there was not sufficient evidence to bring them to court. But he kept Gentil locked up to await trial.
The prosecution has rejected the judge's arguments. The spokesperson for the Sofala provincial attorney's office, Joaquim Tomo, cited in Tuesday's issue of the Beira paper "Diario de Mocambique", said the public prosecutor remains convinced there is enough evidence to indict all three men for the kidnapping and murder of the children.
"If the Public Prosecutor's Office felt there was insufficient evidence against the two men who have now been released, it would have declined to prosecute them and would only have charged the third", Tomo said.
Tomo said the prosecution is now preparing arguments that it will present to the appeal court, in an attempt to overturn Mchuembo's ruling. "The case will go to the appeal court with all the evidence", he stressed.
As for reports that Jemusse and Guambe had been taken back to the police cells, Tomo denied that anybody in his office had ordered this, and a similar denial has come from the Sofala Provincial Police Command. If the two men were back in the cells, Tomo said, it could only be at their own request, to avoid possible reprisals by angry Beira citizens.
The parents of the murdered children regard the release of Jemusse and Guambe as "unjust", and point out that the unfinished house where the children were buried belongs to Jemusse.