Maputo — The Cabo Delgado provincial court, in northern Mozambique, has blamed the failure of witnesses to show up in court as one of the reasons for the large number of acquittals in the two trials held so far of people accused of offences related with the islamist insurgency in the province.
In the first trial, which began in the provincial capital, Pemba, in October 2018, 189 people were charged, but 113 of them were acquitted. A second trial, of 32 alleged insurgents, ended last Tuesday.
The prosecution and the police seem to have done their job better in the second trial, for the judge, Geraldo Patricio, found 24 of the accused guilty of crimes including first degree murder, the possession of banned weapons, instigation to disobedience, conspiracy and membership of a criminal organisation. Of the other accused, three died before the end of the trial, and five were acquitted.
Interviewed by Radio Mozambique, the spokesperson for the provincial court, Zacarias Napatima, said the acquittals were due in part to lack of sufficient evidence and in part to the absence of witnesses. The witnesses had been summoned to testify, but did not turn up at the court.
Napatima said they had not come forward to confirm the denunciations made at earlier stages of the investigation.
In law, he said, "you can't make assumptions. The judge cannot sentence somebody just because it has been said that he is a thief. It has to be shown, through evidence, that this individual was indeed involved in the crime".
Currently there are four other cases related with the insurgency before the court, with a total of 50 accused.