5 December 2012

Mozambique: Drug Trafficker May Receive Clemency

Maputo — The Chinese authorities are considering clemency in the case of a Mozambican woman currently serving a sentence of life imprisonment for drug offences.

32 year old Mila Mendes was arrested by the Chinese police on 11 May 2009 for the possession of 1.4 kilos of heroin. She was sentenced to death in 2010, but the sentence was later commuted to life imprisonment.

On Tuesday, the Mozambican ambassador in Beijing, Antonio Inacio Junior, told a group of Mozambican journalists currently visiting China that he had received information that the sentence could be reduced to 17 or 18 years, and Mendes would no longer face the prospect of spending the rest of her life behind bars.

For the ambassador this decision was “a great gesture” by the Chinese government in its relationship with Mozambique, which dates back to Chinese support for the war of independence against Portuguese colonial rule.

Antonio Junior also believed that the further commutation of the sentence was the fruit of the excellent personal relations which Mozambican leaders have maintained with their Chinese counterparts. This had led to an atmosphere of trust, in which Mendes, initially sentenced to death, had received a partial pardon.

These latest developments also deny the reports circulating that Mila Mendes had already been executed.

“It’s not true, and Mila Mendes is still alive”, said the ambassador. “Last month the consular section of our embassy had the opportunity to visit her in prison. Furthermore, she can maintain contact with her family. The prison allows this because of her good behaviour which also contributed to her death sentence being commuted”.

Antonio Junior took the opportunity to urge all Mozambican citizens not to be seduced by the promises of organised crime, and to avoid illicit activities in Asian countries where the penalties are very severe.

He warned that “countries such as China, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam are places where people are arrested, tried and condemned to death in cases of drug trafficking”.

He added that the strong economic growth rates in many Asian countries made them attractive to organised crime networks, which wanted to expand their activities in this region.

He too the opportunity to praise the efforts made by the Mozambican Ministries of Justice, the Interior, and Foreign Affairs to assist Mila Mendes.

The ambassador added that two other Mozambicans were arrested in China in March this year. They were found guilty of theft and sentenced to prison terms of between 10 and 11 years.

“It’s a very severe penalty for theft”, he said. He was, however, optimistic that they would only serve five or six years, and would then be repatriated to Mozambique.

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