African News

Bissau prosecutor strikes out “Nino” case

By Frederic Tendeng
A Bissau Guinean prosecutor has ordered that the case involving the country’s late President Joao Bernardo Vieira and current Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Jùnior be stroke out. The case dates back to 2007, when Carlos Gomes Junior, after serving as Prime Minister in the past, was indicted for “defamation”, “public insult” and “slanderous denunciation” upon the person of President Joao Bernardo “Nino” Vieira.
Carlos Gomes Jùnior, at the time, Head of Government, reportedly told Lusa News Agency that President Nino Vieira plotted and ordered the killing of Navy Commander, Captain Lamine Sanha who was shot dead on January 6th, 2007 by individuals who were never identified. Gomes Jùnior later sought refuge for 15 days in the UN offices in Bissau after making his allegations through the Portuguese News Agency.
According to prosecutors, Mr. Gomes Júnior told the Lusa reporter “there is no doubt that the murder of Mohamed Lamine Sanha is a settling of old scores between Nino Vieira and the military junta that ousted him following the military conflict of June 1998”. But Mr Gomez Jùnior categorically denied making such a statement.
Explaining the indictment of the then Prime Minister, prosecutors said in a press release issued in November 2008 that Carlos Gomes Jùnior was given at the time an 11 months notice which according to them was “enough time to provide evidence of his innocence, but he did not”.
The trial nonetheless failed to yield any concrete development due to the absence of witnesses. Nobody volunteered to provide information to the Bissau regional court for fear of reprisal.
Considering the Code of Criminal Procedure in Guinea-Bissau, the court decided to strike out the case as the maximum period of investigation known to be six months has finally gone to 32 months which, in the view of the prosecutor, violates the principles of judicial procedures. After two ascertained empty audiences, an order of nolle prosequi was given last week considering that that there was no substance to the matter. The Guinea Bissau Public Ministry, the only holder of the prosecution file, has supported the court’s decision on the grounds that since May 10th 2007, when the matter was heard for the first time, the complainant who was Head of the Guinean state did not appear in court. Now that he has died, the Public Ministry believes “it would be impossible to take the case forward”.

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