Maputo — The tenth section of the Maputo City Court has released three more of the six men convicted, in 2003, of murdering Mozambique's foremost investigative journalist, Carlos Cardoso.
Legal sources have confirmed to AIM that two members of the death squad, Carlitos Rachide and Manuel Fernandes ("Escurinho"), were released on Friday. A third man, Ayob Abdul Satar, one of the business figures who ordered the assassination, was not released at the same time because he was not being held in the same prison.
While Rachide and Fernandes were inmates of the Maputo top security prison, Satar was held in the cells of the Maputo City Police Command. For whatever reason, the police command did not release Satar on Friday, and so his release was rescheduled for Monday.
Rachide was a deserter from the army who fired the shots that killed Cardoso and injured his driver, Carlos Manjate. Fernandes was the lookout for the death squad. Both men confessed to their part in the murder.
Satar, the owner of the now defunct Unicambios foreign exchange bureau, always proclaimed his innocence but failed to convince the judge. He appealed, but the Supreme Court upheld the original verdict and sentence.
Rachid and Fernandes were sentenced to 23 years and six months imprisonment, and Satar to 23 years and three months. The court ordered their release on the grounds that they had served half of their sentences, and had shown good behaviour while in prison. They were therefore eligible for parole.
But the Maputo court completely ignored the question of compensation for their victims. As part of the sentence, the six accused were ordered to pay compensation of 14 billion old meticais (588,000 US dollars, at the exchange rate of the time) to Cardoso's two children, Ibo and Milena, and 500 million meticais to Carlos Manjate.
To date not a penny of this compensation has been paid. It is most unusual for courts to order prisoners released on parole before they have paid compensation to their victims, or reached an acceptable arrangement for how that payment will be made in future.
Another of the men who ordered the assassination, former bank manager Vicente Ramaya, was released on parole in January.
The freedom of all four men is conditional. They must present themselves regularly to the court, they may not leave the county without the explicit authorisation of a judge, and if they commit any further crimes, they will be obliged to serve the rest of their sentence for the Cardoso murder.
However, given the porous nature of Mozambique's borders, if any of the released assassins wishes to leave the country, they will certainly be able to do so.
Just two of the six men convicted for the murder remain behind bars – they are Ayob Satar's younger brother, Momad Assife Abdul Satar ("Nini"), and the man who recruited the death squad and drove the car used in the murder, Anibal dos Santos Junior ("Anibalzinho").
Anibalzinho is serving the longest sentence, of almost 30 years. He was described by the trial judge as an "habitual delinquent", and since he escaped from prison three times, and several other attempts were foiled, he cannot claim good behaviour while in jail. So there is little chance that Anibalzinho will be released on parole. Anibalzinho had been using a Portuguese passport, and so when he is eventually released, he will be deported to Portugal.
As for Nini Satar, there should be no question of parole for him either – for not only was he sentenced to 24 years for the Cardoso murder, but also to 14 years for his part in the massive fraud in which the equivalent of 14 million dollars was stolen from what was then the country's largest commercial bank, the BCM (Commercial Bank of Mozambique).