MAPUTO– A court in the central Mozambican city of Chimoio has sentenced a senior judge, Efigenio Baptista, to a prison term for allegedly beating up a citizen.

Baptista is currently the presiding judge of the Tete city court, but he previously worked in Manica province, and during his time in Manica he is accused of assaulting a citizen on a public highway.

The Chimoio court found him guilty, and sentenced him to three months imprisonment. He must also pay 15,000 meticais (about 247 US dollars, at current exchange rates) to the man he allegedly attacked, Ricardo Sinaleua.

Baptista told the media he is appealing against the verdict and sentence, since it made no sense to accuse him of committing grievous bodily harm when the court found that Sinaleua had suffered no injuries.

It was said that the assault was serious enough to cause illness and make it impossible for Sinaleua to work, Baptista found this ridiculous, given that the court found that Sinaleua suffered no physical damage at all.

Sinaleua also said he is appealing because he believes compensation of 15,000 meticais is far too low and is demanding payment from Baptista of 4.5 million meticais.

Journalists found it difficult to make much sense out of the stories told by Bapista and Sinaleua, because the media was illegally kept out of the trial.

No journalist was allowed to hear the prosecution and the defence make their cases or the judge deliver his verdict in flagrant violation of Article 65 of the Mozambican Constitution, which states that trials are public.

The only exceptions are to safeguard personal, family, social or moral intimacy — as in rape cases, where the intention is to protect the victim, or when powerful reasons of security or public order advise restrictions on reporting.