Maputo — The chairperson of the Mozambican Association of Judges (AMJ), Carlos Mondlane, has categorically denied that a judge has been demoted because he confirmed the preventive detention of nine suspects accused of money laundering and other crimes in connection with the scandal of Mozambique's "hidden debts".
The judge, Delio Portugal, worked at the criminal investigation section of the Maputo City Court, but the regulatory body for judges, the Higher Council of the Judicial Magistracy, has now transferred him to the labour section of the Maputo Provincial Court in the city of Matola.
In some of the press, and among opposition deputies in the Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, it was immediately suggested that Portugal was being punished for keeping in preventive detention such high profile suspects as the former head of the intelligence service, SISE, the former head of SISE economic intelligence, Antonio do Rosario, and the oldest son of former president Armando Guebuza, Ndambi Guebuza.
Interviewed by the independent television station STV, Mondlane dismissed such theories, and pointed out that the CSMJ rotates judges regularly, based on its regulations. The regulations say that, if a judge has been in a criminal investigation section for at least two years, he has the right to be transferred.
"That's what happened to judge Delio Portugal, who has been in the section for more than two years", said Mondlane. Furthermore, two new labour courts are being inaugurated in Maputo and Matola "and it is necessary to endow these courts with judges to chair them".
"Because Delio is a good judge, and because of the criteria it uses, the CSMJ thought it appropriate to appoint him to one of the courts", Mondlane added.
The allegation that Delio Portugal was being punished or persecuted "is simply disinformation", he said.
Furthermore, even if he had stayed in the criminal investigation section in Maputo, Portugal could not have touched the "hidden debts" case again. This is because the judge who decides on validating preventive detention or releasing the suspects cannot be the same as the judge who eventually tries the case.
The same issue was raised in parliament on Thursday, during the debate on the annual report given by Attorney-General Beatriz Buchili, with opposition deputies questioning her about the supposed demotion of Portugal.
Buchili replied that the CSMJ is "autonomous and independent", and her office has nothing to do with the decisions it takes. Furthermore, the Assembly of the Republic (including the opposition groups) appoints members to the CSMJ.
Delio Portugal enjoys the same status now as before he was moved and so "there has been no demotion", she said.