09 July 2011

Decision from Court of Appeal is delayed, but trial continues in murder case

Dili District Court
Press Release Period: April 2011 Edition: 19 April 2011 Decision from Court of Appeal is delayed, but trial continues - On 13 April 2011 at 11:12am the Dili District Court continued the trial of Case No. 314/TDD/2010 of premeditated murder. The defendant PM was aged 25, married and originates from Maubisse, Ainaro District, who is charged with committing the crime against the victim MS.

The trial was presided over by judge Rosa Brandão, SH, who was accompanied by two other judges, namely  Joao Ribeiro, SH  and Alvaro M.  Freitas, SH. The Public Prosecution Service was represented by Domingos Barreto, SH and the Public Defender’s Office was represented by Olga Barreto Nunes, SH. Normally the trial would commence at 10am, but on this day it was delayed by one hour because the public defender had rejected the charges presented to the Court of Appeal in relation to the application of pre-trial detention on 3 January 2011 which had not yet been decided by the Court of Appeal. Nevertheless, the trial continued pursuant to Article 298 (3) of the Criminal Procedure Code.

In response to this development, the Executive Director of JSMP, Luis de Oliveira Sampaio, draws our attention to Article 298.3 of the Criminal Procedure Code which states that “any other appeals shall be merely devolutive in their nature”. This means that the trial of a case that has not yet been decided by the Court of Appeal can be continued because there is nothing impeding the two processes that are progressing respectively at the Dili District Court and the Court of Appeal.

In addition, JSMP observed that the defendant has been in pre-trial detention for approximately 9 months. The trial had to proceed to avoid violating the defendants’ rights pursuant to Article 195 of the Criminal Procedure Code regarding the duration of pre-trial detention and other measures.

Based on the chronology of the case that JSMP obtained during the trial, the crime occurred on 22 June 2010 at approximately 8.00pm on the main road near Radio Falintil, Hudi Laran, Dili.  At that time the defendant was planning to cook some instant noodles because he had just got home from his job as a construction worker. Shortly after, the defendant heard several people shouting and asking for money. Suddenly several people entered the defendant’s kitchen. Based on the testimony of the defendant, he knew two of those people as Matias and Moises (victim), who were asking for money so they could go and drink alcohol. They abused the defendant and they were holding dangerous weapons such as darts, pieces of wood and stones.

The defendant did not have any money so they beat him with a metal pipe until he fell to the ground and soon after the defendant felt someone pull him by the leg and throw him into some water. For this reason the defendant grabbed the metal pipe and beat them with it, and the victim Moises was seriously injured. After beating them the defendant handed himself into to the Comoro Police Station. The victim was taken to the hospital but he passed away en route.  The defendant told the court that he suffered injuries to his leg and head.

The witness DS aged 19 told the court that he and the defendant were neighbors, and at the time of the incident the witness went with M and J to Mota Ulun to drink alcohol and eat some horse meat. After that they returned to the main road near Radio Falintil and continued drinking alcohol with the victim. The witness said that prior to the incident there was a grudge between them related to martial arts rivalry. The witness stated that the defendant started beating the victim Moises, who at that time was returning a glass that he had been drinking from to its owner.

The witness DS provided testimony that was unclear and confusing to those in attendance, especially the court actors.

JSMP values the attendance of the witnesses to provide testimony to the court as this demonstrates that the witnesses have complied with Article 123 (1) of the Criminal Procedure Code on the obligation of witnesses to contribute to the judicial process, and JSMP also acknowledges that witnesses play an important role in revealing the truth about several types of evidence. Testimony can be provided by the victim and other people who directly heard or saw a criminal incident, including eye witness accounts of the crime or when a person is seen committing a crime.

However, JSMP also wishes to encourage court actors to pursue legal measures against those witnesses who do not provide accurate testimony because their action is a crime against justice, and they can be sentenced to 3 years imprisonment or a fine in accordance with Article 278 (1) of the Penal Code, because if a person is not charged with perjury then he/she can do so again in the future.

The court adjourned the trial until 2pm on 29 April 2011 to hear testimony from other witnesses.

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