Mozambique: Conspiracy Charges Dropped, But Five Suspects Sentenced For Alleged Ties To Renamo Military Junta

Maputo — The Dondo district court, in the central Mozambican province of Sofala, on Tuesday sentenced five members or former members of the main opposition party, Renamo to five years imprisonment, converted into fines, for attempting to join the self-styled “Renamo Military Junta”.

Not a shred of evidence tying them to the Military Junta was presented in open court – but one session was closed to the press and public, during which experts from the Criminal Investigation Service (SERNIC) produced evidence, described as “sensitive” by the judge, concerning phone messages between the accused prior to their arrest in early January.

The messages, which are on discs, might have thrown some light on the alleged contacts between the accused and the Military Junta. But, since the journalists were not present when the court heard the content of these messages, the public has no idea whether they added any credibility to the prosecution case.

The public prosecutor’s office initially accused six people of conspiring against the security of the state, but on the final day of the trial, 9 August, the prosecution dropped the charges against one of the accused, Domingos Marrime. He had already spent seven months in preventive detention.

Giving his verdict on Tuesday, the judge, Carlitos Teofilo, threw out the charges of conspiracy, and found the five remaining accused guilty only of attempting to join the Military Junta.

According to the report of his verdict on the independent television station, STV, Teofilo criticised SERNIC and the public prosecutor for the weakness of their case. He said there were “gaps” in the investigation, and “they could have brought more evidence”.

Instead of charging suspects with crimes after an investigation, “they arrested in order to investigate”, the judge accused. “We cannot condemn a citizen just because his cell phone contains the number of Mariano Nhongo (the leader of the military junta). How many journalists have Nhongo’s number, and speak with him, just as they used to speak with Afonso Dhlakama (the late leader of Renamo who died in 2018)?”.

“This fact cannot, in itself, serve as evidence to convict anyone”, said Teofilo. “There were problems of identifying the crime committed by these accused, and so, as far as this court is concerned, there is no crime of conspiracy. There are, however, acts preparatory to joining the Renamo Military Junta”.

The five year prison sentences which the court handed down are converted into fines, at a daily rate of five per cent of the monthly minimum wage for the public administration. For two of the accused, Sandura Ambrosio and Antonio Bauase, the sentence is two years of fine, which works out at 163,046 meticais (about 2,300 US dollars at current exchange rates). The fines are rather smaller for the other three defendants. The five must also pay legal costs.

Teofilo said the court found it proved that three of the accused, Gabriel Domingos, Eugénio Domingos and Aniva Joaquim, had travelled from Marromeu district, intending to join the Military Junta at Macorococho in Nhamatanda district. Ambrosio and Bauase allegedly recruited them.

“But they were not yet members of the Military Junta”, said Teofilo. “They were going to join it and probably commit the crimes that the Junta has committed. But the fact that they were going to join it cannot be construed as a crime of conspiracy against the security of the state”.

“They were not caught killing people, or attacking buses, much less villages”, he added. “In the view of this court, the requirements for the crime of conspiracy are not met”.

During the open court sessions all the accused denied any connection with the Mlitary Junta, although Bauase admitted attending the meeting in mid-2019 at which the Junta chose Nhongo as its leader.

Immediately after the verdict, Ambrosio announced that he would appeal. He denied that he had recruited any of the other accused, either for the Junta or for his own security company (the explanation given by Bauase).

Ambrosio is not even a member of Renamo. He had once been a Renamo parliamentary deputy, but he defected from Renamo and joined the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM) in 2019.

Source: Agencia de Informacao de Mocambique