Mozambique: Conspiracy Trial Grinds to a Halt

Maputo — The trial in the central Mozambican town of Dondo of six people accused of conspiracy against the security of the state ground to a halt on Friday, because the Criminal Investigation Service (Sernic) was unable to present the witnesses requested by the court.

According to a report carried by the independent television sation STV, the judge, Carlitos Teofilo, suspended the hearing just five minutes after it had begun because no Sernic agent was available to explain what are supposedly key pieces of evidence.

These are the phone messages between the accused prior to their arrest in early January. The messages, which are on discs, may throw some light on the alleged contacts between the accused and the self-styled "Renamo Military Junta". The prosecution claims that one of the accused, Sandura Ambrosio, a former parliamentary deputy for the main opposition party, Renamo, had been financing the military junta. Several of the other accused had supposedly been recruited to take part in the Junta's military activities. When questioned by the court, all had denied the charges.

One supposed expert from Sernic was in court on Friday, but he told the judge he was unable to explain the content of the discs, because the pre-trial work on this evidence had been undertaken by experts from Sernic's central office in Maputo. In other words, the prosecution was woefully ill-prepared, and its key technical witnesses were nowhere to be seen.

The judge said he must take some of the blame, because he had not noticed that the document accompanying the discs stated that it was from the "National Directorate of Sernic", and not from the Sofala provincial directorate.

Teofilo said there was no alternative but to interrupt the trial to give the court time to request the presence of the Sernic experts from Maputo. He said the trial will resume on 7 August.

Ambrosio's lawyer, Jose Capassura, seized on this opportunity to request the court to grant his client provisional freedom, on payment of bail, if necessary. The judge turned the request down.

The lawyers for the other five accused made no attempt to secure their provisional release.

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