Monday, December 12, 2005

Cardoso Murder: Escape Was 'Miracle of God'

Agencia de Informacao de Mocambique (Maputo)
December 2, 2005
Posted to the web December 2, 2005
Anibal dos Santos Junior ("Anibalzinho"), the man accused of recruiting the death squad that murdered Mozambique's top investigative journalist, Carlos Cardoso, in November 2002, on Friday claimed that his second escape from the Maputo top security prison, in May 2004, was "a miracle of God".
On the second day of his trial for murder, he told the Maputo City Court that his first escape, in September 2002, was arranged by the three men accused of ordering the assassination, the businessmen Nini and Ayob Abdul Satar, and former bank manager Vicente Ramaya. He said they had paid off the police guards who escorted him out of the prison.
But the Satars and Ramaya were not involved in the second escape, he insisted, and nor was anybody from the government. "It was a miracle from God because my life was in danger. They (the Satars and Ramaya) wanted me to say it was the Interior Minister (Almerino Manhenje) who took me out the first time on the instructions of the family of President Chissano. They threatened me, they said they had lots of money, and I just wanted to get away".
The "miracle" seemed to be that on Sunday 9 May, after Anibalzinho had attended mass ("I believe in God", he stressed), and gone for an afternoon stroll in the yard, "I found there wasn't much security and I walked out of the front door".
He said he made his way to Canada using a forged Portuguese passport. He had acquired this passport through contacts in South Africa. Although he had travelled half way round the globe on it, he could not remember the name in the passport.
Prosecuting Attorney Olinda Cossa asked him why he had chosen Canada. After all, Anibalzinho is a Portuguese citizen, and he had a Portuguese passport, albeit a phoney one. Why not go to Portugal ?
"I don't like the Portuguese", replied Anibalzinho. "I don't like Portugal. There they think I'm a traitor because I wouldn't implicate members of the Mozambican government in the murder. I felt contempt from the Portuguese embassy in Canada when they visited me (at a Toronto detention centre). I went to Canada because of the knowledge of my mother, who told me that Canada is a country that defends human rights, and with God's help nothing would happen to me there".
He said he could afford an air ticket to Canada because his mother had sold a plot of land in the Maputo suburb of Costa do Sol to raise the money. Anibalzinho repeatedly said he had not denounced the preparations he knew were under way for the Cardoso murder because he feared that the Satars and Ramaya would have him killed. But he was denouncing them now, the Cardoso family lawyer, Lucinda Cruz, remarked. Was he no longer afraid ?
"Because of my statements here, I know my life hangs by a thread", he replied. "I know that something will happen to me. I have no doubt about that. But because of my courage and my faith I have the will to speak".
Judge Dimas Barroa was evidently sceptical about the picture of the all-powerful Satar family drawn by Anibalzinho. For, if the Satars had so much power, "how is it that they did not escape from prison themselves ?", he asked.
"They had their own interests", was the only reply Anibalzinho could give.
Cruz also probed Anibalzinho's business activities. In his official identification, he claims to be a "mechanic", yet at the trial he repeatedly described himself as a "car salesman". Which was true ?
Both, he replied: selling cars was a way of "adding to my daily bread. Anybody can sell cars. Being a mechanic is much more difficult".
Was he licensed to sell cars ?, asked Cruz. No, he replied.
Did he pay taxes, or declare his income to the authorities ? No, he admitted.
Yet Anibalzinho is a foreigner. He holds Portuguese nationality, and owned a DIRE (Identity and Residence Permit for Foreigners). In principle, the issuing of DIREs requires Labour Ministry authorisation, and they are not given to car salesmen who pay no tax. So how had Anibalzinho obtained his DIRE ?, Cruz asked. He brushed the question aside, saying that his late mother, Teresinha de Mendonca, had dealt with all such matters.
When Cruz insisted, Anibalzinho snapped "Go and visit the cemetery and speak with my dead mother".

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