Mozambique: Police Told to Remove Convicted Prisoners From Cells

Maputo — Mozambique's Attorney-General, Augusto Paulino, has told the police they can no longer keep prisoners serving sentences in the cells of the Maputo City Police Command, but must transfer them to appropriate prisons.

Continuing his visits to incarceration facilities in Maputo, on Wednesday Paulino visited the cells in the police command. He found that the cells currently hold 44 supposedly dangerous prisoners. 25 of these are detainees awaiting trial, but the other 19 are already serving lengthy prison sentences.

Journalists were unable to follow Paulino's visit closely, since the police denied them entry to the cells, and refused to allow them to speak to any of the prisoners.

Assistant Attorney-General Lucia Maximiano told the reporters that there are too many people in the cells for their limited capacity. Furthermore, these cells are supposed to be holding cells, in which potentially dangerous prisoners can be detained while investigations into their crimes continue.

"This is the greatest problem noted by the Attorney-General", she said.

"Since these are people who have already been sentenced by a court, they should be serving their sentences in appropriate prisons. We wanted to hear from the police the reason for this situation".

"We shall coordinate with the institution that is managing the cells (i.e the Maputo City Police Command) so as to understand the motives and to find adequate measures for these individuals to be sent to establishments that are intended to accommodate people serving sentences", Maximiano added.

"This situation must be immediately corrected".

The most notorious resident of the cells at the Maputo Command is Anibal dos Santos Junior ("Anibalzinho"), the leader of the death squad that assassinated the country's top investigative journalist, Carlos Cardoso, in November 2000. He is serving a 30 year sentence.

The justification for placing Anibalzinho in these cells is that he escaped twice from the Maputo top security prison (in August 2002 and May 2004).

But the idea that the Maputo City Police Command was escape-proof collapsed when Anibalzinho escaped for the third time, in December 2008. He was re-arrested in South Africa, and returned to the cells in August 2009.

In February this year, the three men convicted of ordering Cardoso's murder, former bank manager Vicente Ramaya, loan shark Momad Assife Abdul Satar ("Nini"), and his brother, Ayob Abdul Satar, once the owner of the Unicambios foreign exchange bureau, were moved from the top security prison to the police cells.

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