Monday, December 12, 2005

Cardoso Murder: Anibalzinho's Testimony Torn to Pieces

Agencia de Informacao de Mocambique (Maputo)
December 2, 2005
Posted to the web December 2, 2005
Lucinda Cruz, lawyer for the family of murdered Mozambican journalist Carlos Cardoso, on Friday tore to shreds the testimony of Anibal dos Santos Junior ("Anibalzinho"), the man accused of leading the death squad that assassinated Cardoso on 22 November 2000.
Key to Cruz's questioning was a video-cassette that Anibalzinho had sent to the Maputo City Court in December 2002 from his hideout in South Africa. At the time, he was a fugitive: he had escaped from the Maputo top security prison in September 2002, and was being tried in absentia, alongside five co- defendants.
On Thursday, on the first day of his retrial, Anibalzinho denied that he had confessed to the murder in the cassette, and said that the whole point of the tape had been to clear the name of former bank manager Vicente Ramaya, one of those accused of ordering the murder.
So had he dictated the whole tape as a result of instructions received over the phone from Ramaya ?, Cruz asked.
Was none of it Anibalzinho's own initiative ?
"Everything was Ramaya's initiative", declared Anibalzinho.
"So it was Ramaya who told you to state repeatedly that the Mozambican government, the Frelimo Party and the family of President Chissano had nothing to do with the murder ?", she asked.
Once Cruz had demonstrated her familiarity with the tape, Anibalzinho changed his tune radically. Now he claimed that Ramaya had wanted him to incriminate the Chissano family in the death of Cardoso. "I didn't accept that, and so I said that the Chissano family and the government are innocent", he declared.
Nonetheless, he insisted that "most of the cassette" came from Ramaya, and he recorded it against a promise of 100,000 US dollars, money that he never received.
But if Anibalzinho was innocent of the murder, Cruz continued, how could he state so categorically that nobody in the government, Frelimo or the Chissano family was involved ?
He replied that none of the people he had seen at conspiratorial meetings in the Rovuma Hotel discussing the assassination in early 2000 had anything to do with the government. He insisted once again that the only people who ordered the crime were Ramaya, and the brothers Nini and Ayob Abdul Satar (the former a notorious Maputo loan shark, the latter owner of the Unicambios foreign exchange bureau).
When Cruz pushed her point further, demanding to know how someone who proclaims himself innocent of a crime can possibly know who did not order it, Anibalzinho clammed up and refused to answer further questions on that point.
Switching tack, Cruz pointed out that in the tape (contrary to his Thursday claim), Anibalzinho did indeed accept responsibility for the murder. He even showed, using an improvised map of Maputo and model cars, how the crime was carried out. Why did a supposedly innocent man make a tape accepting responsibility for a murder ?
"It was all for the money that Ramaya had promised me. He said Frangoulis (Antonio Frangoulis, former head of the Maputo Criminal Investigation Police) promised that the tape would free Ramaya from responsibility", replied Anibalzinho. "With the 100,000 dollars I could make a new start. I would never have returned to Maputo".
"So for money, you had no problem in accepting responsibility for the worst kind of crime", remarked Cruz.
"I never imagined that everything would go backwards", Anibalzinho mumbled. (The tape was never used in evidence in the 2002-03 trial: judge Augusto Paulino refused to accept it, and said that if Anibalzinho wanted to testify in his own defence, he would have to appear at the court in person, rather than manipulating the trial from afar).
A major problem for Anibalzinho was that, in 2003, at the trial of the seven policemen accused of facilitating his escape, he had declared that the tape was all true, except for the part where he stated that Ramaya had nothing to do with the murder.
Now he was declaring that the tape was almost all false.
In 2003, Cruz pointed out, Anibalzinho was not an accused, but a witness. Accused people are allowed to lie in court, but witnesses are not. "You had the duty to tell the truth at that trial. You said the truth about the death of Cardoso was on the cassette, except for the part about Ramaya", the lawyer continued. "You said you only exonerated Ramaya in order to annoy the Satars. Now you are saying it was all false. Either you lied then, or you're lying now".
"The cassette was so that Ramaya could lie to the court with my help", replied Anibalzinho. "He needed my support to deceive the court. What is truthful is the part where I said I didn't know Nyimpine (oldest son of President Joaquim Chissano), and never met Nyimpine. This part, and I say it with all pride, is true. The rest is all lies and I did it for money".
The background to this is that in the 2002-03 trial Nini Satar's defence was that he had paid the equivalent of 46,000 dollars to Anibalzinho, but at the request of Nyimpine Chissano.
The money was a loan to Nyimpine, and Satar claimed he had no idea it was to be used for a contract killing.
Now, at his own trial, Anibalzinho seemed curiously eager to clear Nyimpine Chissano's name, as if he were more interested in defending Nyimpine than in defending himself. "The government and the Chissano family were simply targets for defamation", he declared.
Anibalzinho said he made the cassette at the house he used as a hideout in South Africa, which Nini Satar had rented through a relative he named as Momad Bachir. He purchased the model cars and other props for the tape at a nearby toy shop - but he could not remember the name of the shop or exactly where it was located.
As for the camera used, he admitted to receiving help from a friend. Cruz asked for his name and address.
"He's in South Africa", Anibalzinho replied.
That was no problem, the lawyer assured him. Given the excellent relations between the Mozambican and South African authorities, it was perfectly possible to bring a witness from South Africa to Maputo. So what was his name.
"Rui", replied Anibalzinho. This happens to be one of the commonest forenames in the Portuguese language. "I don't know his other name", said Anibalzinho predictably.
"He lives on the outskirts of Johannesburg", he added. "The name of the area escapes me".
During the 2003 trial of the seven police officers.
Anibalzinho boasted that he had negotiated his return from South Africa to Maputo. But now he admitted "I was re-arrested and sent back. There was no negotiation".
A few minutes later he changed his line, and said that it was his mother (now conveniently deceased) who wanted him to stay in South Africa. And once again, he refused to answer further questions on the topic.

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