December 27, 2002

Questions on mass break-out from jail

None of those involved in the murder of journalist Carlos Cardoso were among the prisoners who escaped on Monday, December 23, 2002 from the Maputo top security prison (commonly known as the "B.O."), according to the general commander of the Mozambican police, Miguel dos Santos.

Cited in the independent newssheet "Mediafax", dos Santos also denied reports that one of those who confessed to the murder, Manuel Fernandes ("Escurinho"), had died in the prison. Dos Santos gave a completely different account of the escapes than the version offered two days after the escape by national police spokesperson Nataniel Macamo. Where Macamo had spoken of nine escapees, dos Santos put the true figure at 19. Macamo had spoken of transferring less dangerous prisoners out of the B.O., and bringing into that prison people regarded as a threat to the public. But dos Santos said that the police had, since 15 December, been rounding up people "of dubious conduct", and locking them up so that they could not disturb the festive season in Maputo and the neighbouring city of Matola. He said this was a successful operation, because the people in Maputo neighbourhoods denounced "the main scoundrels", and the police went in and picked them up. He added that the police only arrested these individuals, if the denunciation turned out to be true.

In all, 200 people arrested in this operation were taken to the B.O. - of whom 19 escaped. Dos Santos said the police had opened an inquiry to ascertain who was responsible for this mass break-out. He insisted that the 200 people rounded up were kept separately from the other B.O. inmates, including those accused of the murder of Carlos Cardoso, and other serious crimes. (AIM, Maputo)

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