Maputo, 3 Dec (AIM) - A witness in the Carlos Cardoso murder trial on Tuesday told of conspiratorial meetings in a Maputo hotel - but denied that these had anything to do with planning the November 2000 assassination of the country's top investigative journalist.
The problem for the prosecution is that this witness, Osvaldo Muianga ("Dudu"), has changed his story repeatedly. His first version, told to the police in March 2001, concerned a series of meetings allegedly held at the Rovuma hotel in mid- 2000, which discussed plans to murder leading lawyer Albano Silva, but which then switched their attention to "the second inconvenience", Carlos Cardoso.
A few months later Muianga retracted this entire story, claiming that the then manager of the Polana Casino, Gary Rouper, had persuaded him to incriminate one of the key accused, Maputo money-lender Momade Assife Abdul Satar.
This year Muianga retracted his retraction, reverting to his original story. But by October his version had changed again: now he claimed that the three meetings he attended at the Rovuma Hotel discussed exclusively the elimination of Albano Silva, and said nothing about Cardoso.
This was the version he gave in court, insisting that it was true and that, as a Moslem, he could not lie to the court.
Albano Silva was the lawyer for the country's largest bank, the BCM, and he was fighting to bring to trial members of the Abdul Satar family, and former BCM branch manager Vicente Ramaya for their part in a fraud which had robbed the bank of 144 billion meticais (14 million US dollars at the exchange rate of the time).
On 29 November 1999, Silva survived an assassination attempt. A bullet was fired through the open window of his car as he drove down one of Maputo's main avenues, missing his head by a few centimetres.
According to Muianga, the Rovuma meetings were held to discuss a second attempt on the lawyer's life. The first, it was said, had been deliberately bungled because the would-be assassins had not been paid.
Muianga said the first meeting was between Momade Satar, Anibal dos Santos Junior ("Anibalzinho") and himself. The two later meetings were attended by Ramaya, and third meeting also by Satar's brother, Ayob Abdul Satar. (With the exception of Muianga himself, all are charged with Cardoso's murder.) Muianga said the plotters decided to pay 600,000 rands and a billion meticais (about 100,000 US dollars in all) for the murder of Silva. He was the go between in a down payment of 100 million meticais in two tranches made by Momade Satar to Anibalzinho.
But the plan was postponed. Muianga said he overheard a phone conversation between Satar and Anibalzinho in which the murder of Silva was put on hold, while another "inconvenience" was to be dealt with. Muianga told the court he feared that he was the other "inconvenience" and that, despite their longstanding friendship, Anibalzinho intended to murder him.
Muianga said that when he attended the first Rovuma meeting, he did not know that murder was on the agenda. He continued attending the meetings, he claimed, because the other conspirators were threatening him.
This story is far-fetched: Muianga is already under arrest for his alleged role in the attempted murder of Albano Silva in 1999.
Muianga said he retracted his original story because he felt "abandoned" by the police. Without protection for himself and his family, he fell prey to pressure exerted by Momade Satar. Although by this time Satar was under preventive detention at the Maputo top security prison, he had easy access to mobile phones, and continued to ring up Muianga, coaching him as to what he should put in his rewritten statement.
In these contacts, Satar "said he was under the protection of important people, and I had to do what he said, otherwise something unpleasant would happen", Muianga recalled.
Satar did not name these "important people", but told Muianga they included attorneys and Supreme Court judges. He added that, when they were both locked up in different prisons, Satar's power was such that he could send members of the Presidential Guard with messages, and mobile phones for Muianga, so that they could keep in contact.
Satar told him it was "all under control with the police, the attorneys and the judges".
The defence lawyers do not believe that the meetings in the Rovuma Hotel ever took place. In his first statement, Muianga said they were held in room 105 or 106 - but there are no rooms with these numbers in the Rovuma.
Now Muianga says he cannot remember the room number, and is not sure which floor the lift stopped at. Asked to described the room, he said it was "normal". Further aggressive questioning from Ramaya's lawyer, Abdul Gani, led Muianga to say that the room had a single bed, and no television or mini-bar.
Asked about Nyimpine Chissano, the oldest son of President Joaquim Chissano, whom several of the accused have linked to the Cardoso murder, Muianga said he had never attended any meetings at Nyimpine's house, and that Momade Satar never spoke to him about Nyimpine.
Muianga revealed that he is a cousin of the former head of the government Customs Restructuring Unit, Pedro Bule, and that Bule was once the lover of Maria Candida Cossa, another person who is alleged to have conspired to murder Cardoso. Candida Cossa is said to have switched her amorous attentions from Bule to Nyimpine Chissano.
The defence made a desperate attempt to expunge all of Muianga's statements from the trial record. Two of the lawyers, Domingos Arouca and Simeao Cuamba, claimed that he was an ineligible witness, and that everything he said was therefore null and void.
The presiding judge, Augusto Paulino, threw out this complaint, pointing out that the question had been solved months ago by the Supreme Court which had ruled that Muianga was a valid witness.
Maputo, 3 Dec (AIM) - Relatives of some of those charged with the murder of Mozambique's best known journalist, Carlos Cardoso, have attempted to bribe a key witness to change his story, the prosecution alleged in court on Tuesday.
The bribe money has been seized, and prosecutor Mourao Baluce showed the court a sackful of banknotes - amounting to 6,500 US dollars, and 135,150,000 meticais (about 5,700 dollars).
Baluce said this money was paid by relatives of Vicente Ramaya and of the brothers Ayob and Momade Abdul Satar to the mother of Osvaldo Muianga ("Dudu"), a witness who claims that Ramaya and the Satar brothers were present at conspiratorial meetings in the Rovuma Hotel in mid-2000.
In the first version of Muianga's story, the Rovuma meetings plotted the murder first of lawyer Albano Silva, but then changed tack and concentrated on eliminating Cardoso. However, the version he told in court on Tuesday had nothing to do with Cardoso at all: he claimed the meetings exclusively discussed how to assassinate Albano Silva.
According to Baluce, the relatives of the accused wanted Muianga's mother to persuade him to tell a story that left Ramaya and the Satar brothers out altogether. That would have reduced the meetings at the Rovuma to discussions between Muianga and Anibal dos Santos Junior ("Anibalzinho"), the man accused of organising the hit squad that murdered Cardoso, and who is being tried in absentia.
Baluce said that a 5,000 dollar bribe was paid on 19 November, and the rest of the money on 30 November. He did not explain how the money fell into the hands of the police.
The defence lawyers objected vociferously to the display of the money, saying that the prosecution had not proved its origin.
Momade Satar's Portuguese lawyer, Eduardo Jorge, even threatened to abandon the trial altogether.
Baluce retorted that he had proof, in the shape of an audio cassette of Satar giving instructions to his relatives, which he intended to play later in the trial.
"People are free to come to the prison with money", said Jorge. "I don't know when this cassette was taped".
The presiding judge, Augusto Paulino, assured the lawyers they could speak to their clients about this money, but he insisted it was correct to display the money seized to the public.
"This trial is public and transparent, and we don't want to hide anything",
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