New York, January 31, 2003--Six men accused of killing Mozambican journalist Carlos Cardoso were convicted today and sentenced to lengthy prison terms, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists’ (CPJ) representative at the trial in Mozambique’s capital, Maputo.
Meanwhile, fugitive suspect Anibal dos Santos Junior, commonly known as Anibalzhino, who escaped from pretrial detention, was captured yesterday in South Africa and extradited to Mozambique, Interpol-South Africa announced.
Anibalzhino was tried in absentia for leading the death squad that murdered Cardoso in November 2000 and was sentenced to 28 years and six months in jail. The other five suspects were sentenced to at least 23 years in jail each.
“There is a sense here that this ruling is more than expected,” said South African journalist Phillip Van Niekerk, who represented CPJ at the verdict announcement. “People are glad because the sentences are very harsh.”
According to Van Niekerk, Judge Augusto Paulino has vowed to push for a thorough investigation of President Joaquim Chissano’s son Nymphine Chissano, who has been accused by most suspects of ordering Cardoso’s murder.
“Now people here seem to be waiting to see how much further the judicial system can be stretched to take on the powerful,” said Van Niekerk. “They are also asking if the manner and timing of the fugitive suspect Anibalzhino’s arrest was not a cover-up to keep him from testifying in court. A serious investigation is urgently called for.”
Prison guards have said they unlawfully released Anibalzhino in September 2002 after receiving “orders from above.”
The verdict comes more than two months after the trial opened in a maximum-security prison outside Maputo.
For more information, read The Case of Carlos Cardoso, CPJ’s special coverage of the events in Mozambique. .