In Mozambique, court upholds conviction of Carlos Cardoso’s killers

New York, February 16, 2007—The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes this week’s ruling by a Mozambican court to reject the appeals of six hired killers of leading investigative journalist Carlos Cardoso.

Cardoso was gunned down on November 22, 2000, while investigating the 1996 embezzlement of US$14 million from the state-controlled Commercial Bank of Mozambique (BCM).

Mozambique’s Supreme Court in the capital Maputo upheld lengthy prison sentences handed down in January 2003 by a trial court against Anibal dos Santos Jr. and five other co-defendants, according to news reports. The court also upheld damages of 14 billion meticals (US$546,000) to be paid by the defendants to the journalist’s family, plus 1.5 billion meticals (US$58,000) to his driver, who was severely injured in the attack, according to the same sources.

“We are pleased that the judicial process has come full circle in prosecuting the killers of Carlos Cardoso,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “We urge authorities to pursue all remaining leads to try all those responsible.”

Cardoso family lawyer Lucinda Cruz was quoted by the state-run news agency Agencia de Informacao de Mocambique as saying she was satisfied with the verdict. “I’m content, I’m satisfied. It’s what we always asked for,” she said. The defendants could appeal to a plenary of the Supreme Court, but it was unlikely this plenary would overturn a verdict by a panel of three of its members, she said.

Dos Santos, better known as Anibalzinho, is currently in prison after being twice sentenced to 28 ½ years in prison for recruiting Cardoso’s killers, according to CPJ research.

The others convicted include Momade Abdul Assife Satar (24 years) and Ayob Abdul Satar (23 ½ years), two brothers from a wealthy and influential family, former BCM branch Manager Vicente Ramaya, the shooter Carlitos Rachid, and the lookout Manuel dos Anjos Fernandes (23 ½ years each), according to news reports.

In another case related to the killing, Mozambique’s state prosecutor formally charged in May 2006 businessman Nyimpine Chissano, son of former Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano, with “joint moral authorship” of the murder after several defendants implicated him in the crime, according to news reports. Chissano has yet to be arrested and has denied any involvement in the murder.

Mozambican courts struggle with an entrenched culture of political influence since the end of two decades of one-party rule in1994, according to an October 2006 Africa Governance Monitoring and Advocacy Project report. Anibalzinho’s escapes and the Cardoso trial “strengthened the public’s perception that organized criminal elements have connections with senior government officials,” the report said.

For more on this case, see CPJ’s special report on the murder of Carlos Cardoso.