Reporters Without Borders

Journalist's killer gets 30-year prison sentence but mysteries remain

Journalist’s killer gets 30-year prison sentence but mysteries remain

Published on Friday 20 January 2006.
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The leader of the hit squad that murdered journalist Carlos Cardoso, Anibal Antonio dos Santos Junior ("Anibalzinho", photo) was sentenced to 30 years in prison today. Reporters Without Borders calls for further investigation to discover who ordered the killing.

Reporters Without Borders welcomed the 30-year jail sentence passed today on Anibal Antonio dos Santos Junior (“Anibalzinho”), for leading the commando that gunned down journalist Carlos Cardoso in 2000. But it said many questions remained and called for investigation of claims by his accomplices that ex-President Joaquim Chissano’s son Nyimpine had been involved, and also for an enquiry into Anibalzinho’s two escapes from prison since the murder.

It urged the authorities to see that Anibalzinho and his accomplices served their sentences in view of his previous escapes. The worldwide press freedom organisation noted that “a journalist’s killers are rarely prosecuted in Africa.” It called on the authorities to reveal who ordered the killing.

Anibalzinho was also ordered to pay 14 billion meticals (€490,000) in damages to Cardoso’s family and 1.5 billion (51,000) to the journalist’s driver, who was wounded in the murder. The judge decreed that after completing his sentence, Anibalzinho be deported to his country of nationality, Portugal.

Cardoso, editor of the daily Metical, was murdered in a main street of the capital, Maputo, on 22 November 2000, when two gunmen surrounded his car and opened fire. Cardoso was hit in the head and died on the spot and his driver was badly wounded.

The journalist had been investigating the country’s biggest financial scandal since independence, the embezzlement of the equivalent of €14 million from Mozambique’s Banco Comercial, and had pointed a finger at three powerful businessmen, the Satar brothers and Vicente Ramaya.

Two of the five accused killers, during their trial in January 2003, had said Nyimpine Chissano ordered the murder. A few weeks earlier, prosecutor-general Joaquim Madeira said a new investigation was under way into Chissano’s involvement. The president’s son was summoned as a witness at the trial but denied any link with Anibalzinho.

Anibalzinho escaped from Maputo’s top-security prison in May 2004 and was arrested by Interpol a few days later on arrival at Toronto airport, where he had asked for political asylum. He was extradited to Mozambique in January 2005. He had earlier escaped from Maputo prison in September 2002 and was captured in Pretoria (South Africa) in January 2003, the same day he was sentenced in his absence to 28 years in prison by a Maputo court for the murder. Today’s verdict came after a retrial, ordered on appeal because the first trial was in absentia.

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