Maputo — The Chokwe district court, in the southern Mozambican province of Gaza, on Saturday ordered the release of the 18 polling station monitors of the small Mozambican opposition party, Nova Democracia (ND - New Democracy) who were arrested on polling day, 15 October.
They were arrested because the credentials they used to allow them to observe the count in Chokwe were allegedly forged - an accusation which the ND leadership denies. No formal charge was laid against them, and so they spent 46 days incarcerated without charge or trial.
When the court finally granted provisional release, it came with a price tag. Each of the ND monitors would have to pay bail of 40,000 meticais (635 US dollars).
ND regarded this as a "ransom" demanded by "kidnappers", since the party denied there was ever any legitimate reason to detain the 18.
Neither ND nor the families of the 18 had the funds required to pay a total bail of 720,000 meticais. Payment of the bail was only possible thanks to contributions from individual citizens and organisations in Mozambique and abroad.
Cited in Monday's issue of the independent newsheet "Carta de Mocambique", the ND national election agent, Quiteria Guirrengane said that, in the name of transparency, ND will publish a detailed list of all the aid it received.
ND is an offshoot of a prominent civil society, organisation, the Youth Parliament. The former chairperson of the Youth Parliament, Salomao Muchanga, is now the President of the ND.
The 18 detained monitors (six women and 12 men) are all young, ranging in age between 19 and 37.