Mozambique: Retrial of Accused Cardoso Murderer Set for December

The tenth section of the Maputo City Court has finally set a date, December 1, 2005, for the retrial of Anibal dos Santos Junior ("Anibalzinho"), the man who led the death squad that murdered Mozambique's top investigative journalist, Carlos Cardoso, on November 22, 2000.

The retrial will thus begin almost a full year after it was ordered by the Supreme Court. The Maputo City Court has provided no convincing explanation for this delay.

At the original trial, held from November 2002 to January 2003, Anibalzinho and five others were found guilty of Cardoso's assassination and sentenced to lengthy prison terms. The trial judge, Augusto Paulino, gave the heaviest punishment (28 years and six months) to Anibalzinho, whom Paulino described as "a habitual delinquent".

The other two members of the death squad, the lookout, Manuel Fernandes, and the man who pulled the trigger, Carlitos Rachid, made full confessions.

They described how Anibalzinho had recruited them and had driven the car, a stolen Citi-Golf, used in the murder.

But Anibalzinho was not in court to hear the evidence. He had been illegally released from prison in September 2002, and was thus tried in absentia.

Anibalzinho was tracked down to a house on the outskirts of Pretoria, and was detained by the South African police on January 30, 2003. The following day he was repatriated to Mozambique, arriving at Maputo International Airport just hours after Paulino had delivered his verdict.

Anibalzinho's lawyer, Simeao Cuamba, put in an appeal calling for a second trial for his client. Paulino turned down the appeal on the grounds that Anibalzinho had every opportunity to attend the first trial: the only reason he was absent was that he had escaped from prison.

But in December 2004, the Supreme Court overturned this ruling, and decreed that all accused persons tried in absentia, and sentenced to jail terms of two years or more, have the right to a retrial.

Ironically, Anibalzinho was not available to react to his lawyer's victory.

He had escaped for a second time, made his way to Canada, and was being held at a detention centre in Toronto.

But his attempts to remain in Canada failed. A Canadian immigration board ordered his deportation, and he returned to Mozambique under police escort on January 21, this year. This time he was incarcerated, not at the top security prison, but in a special cell in the Maputo City Police Command.

On October 13, 2005, the Maputo daily "Noticias" reported that the City Court had begun notifying the public prosecutor and other interested parties of the trial date.

The Cardoso family lawyer, Lucinda Cruz, confirmed to the Mozambique News Agency (AIM) that she has been notified, and would be representing the family at the trial. The family's civil suit runs in tandem with the criminal prosecution.

In the meantime, Anibalzinho has sacked Cuamba. The reasons for this remain obscure, but several months ago Cuamba said he was owed large sums by Anibalzinho. The result is that the court has appointed an official defence layer to represent Anibalzinho.

The trial is slated to take place at the Maputo City Court. But as the courtrooms there are small and cannot hold all the people who wish to attend the trial, the judges are currently looking for an alternative.

The original trial was held under a gigantic air-conditioned tent erected on the grounds of the top security prison. Such an option has been ruled out this time on the grounds of cost.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has still given no ruling on the appeal against conviction from the three men found guilty of ordering the killing, businessmen brothers Ayob and Momade Assife (Nini) Abdul Satar and former bank manager Vicente Ramaya.

The delay in dealing with the appeals means that Cardoso's two children have not yet received any of the financial compensation ordered by Paulino.

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