Mozambique: Trial of Kidnap Suspects Postponed

Maputo — The trial of three people, a man and two women, accused of involvement on the kidnapping of businessman Manish Cantilal, could not begin on Monday, as scheduled, because the defence lawyers abandoned the courtroom.

The case is to be held in the seventh section of the Maputo city court, and the judge, Efigenio Baptista, postponed the start of the trial to 15 February. The defence lawyers justified their walkout on the grounds of a lengthy delay in the start of proceedings (because the vehicle bringing the accused from prison was late), but the judge described their behavior as "not normal".

Baptista also revealed that the lawyers wanted the trial moved from Maputo to the neighbouring city of Matola. He threw this request out: since Cantilal had been kidnapped on Ho Chi Minh Avenue, in the heart of Maputo, it was clear that the Maputo City Court had jurisdiction.

Manish Cantilal was kidnapped on 18 February 2020. Footage broadcast by the Miramar television station suggested that, at around 23.00, the victim had just parked his vehicle, when a group of four or more people, all masked, entered the parking garage. Video from another angle showed Cantilal being bundled moments later into the kidnappers' car. The abduction consummated, they left the scene at high speed.

Manish Cantilal became well known in April 2014, when he was arrested and charged with being the mastermind behind four kidnappings in Maputo. Later that year the Maputo city court restored him to freedom.

Cantilal spent 92 days as a prisoner of the kidnap gang. He was rescued by the National Criminal Investigation Service (SERNIC) from the house in Matola where the kidnapers had held him.

One of those arrested in connection with another kidnapping told SERNIC where Cantilal was being kept. But when the police arrived they found Cantilal tied up and alone. His captors had fled.

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