Fugitive in Cardoso murder returned to Mozambique

New York, January 24, 2005—A fugitive in the murder of investigative reporter Carlos Cardoso has been returned to Mozambique, where he faces a new trial in the November 2000 slaying. The Committee to Protect Journalists today called for the prompt prosecution and secure detention of Anibal Antonio dos Santos Junior, who has escaped from custody twice.

Dos Santos, better known as Anibalzinho, was deported from Canada, where his petition for refugee status was turned down in December 2004. He arrived in Mozambique on Saturday, and was being held at police headquarters in the capital, Maputo, according to the state-run AIM news agency and local sources.

Anibalzinho escaped from a high-security prison in Maputo in May 2004 but was captured later that month at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport. While his refugee petition was pending, Mozambican authorities requested Anibalzhino’s extradition from Canada. The two countries have no extradition treaty, slowing the process of returning the suspect.

It was not the first time Anibalzinho had escaped custody. After fleeing pretrial detention in September 2002, he was convicted in absentia of murder and sentenced to 28 years in prison. He was captured in South Africa in January 2003 and extradited to Mozambique, where he was serving his term until his second escape.

In December 2004, Mozambique’s Supreme Court ruled that Anibalzinho was entitled to a retrial. The court ruled that a defendant who is convicted in absentia and sentenced to more than two years—including an escapee—is entitled to a new trial when he re-emerges. No date has been set for the retrial, according to local sources. Anibalzinho’s five codefendants were convicted.

“CPJ welcomes the news that Anibalzinho has been returned to jail in Mozambique,” said Ann Cooper, executive director of CPJ. “We urge Mozambican authorities to ensure that Anibalzinho remains in secure custody, and that his retrial is impartial and transparent.”

Cardoso was Mozambique’s leading investigative journalist at the time of his death, and was covering a 1996 corruption scandal involving the state-controlled Commercial Bank of Mozambique.

During their trial, several of those accused of involvement in Cardoso’s murder said that Nyimpine Chissano, a son of then-president Joaquim Chissano, had ordered the assassination. A separate investigation into Nyimpine’s involvement was launched in January 2003, but no developments have been publicly announced. Nyimpine has categorically denied the charges.