Murdered Mozambique Lawyer Cistac Had Complained Over Spy Claims

Gilles Cistac, the Mozambican constitutional lawyer murdered Tuesday in the center of the country’s capital, had complained days earlier to the nation’s attorney general after he was accused of being a spy.

Cistac was attacked by four men, police spokesman Arnaldo Chefo said in a statement broadcast on independent television station, TIM. He died in hospital hours after he was shot while in a car outside a cafe in one of Maputo’s busiest streets.

In an interview with independent weekly newspaper Savana, published on Feb. 27, Cistac said he contacted the attorney general after allegations made on social media. Cistac, a naturalized Mozambican of French origin, was accused of being a spy working with foreign interests to support plans by the main opposition party for autonomous regions.

The accusations made in a Facebook account accused Cistac of working with European countries and the U.S. to loot Mozambique’s natural resources. Similar allegations were made against the economists Carlos Nuno Castel-Branco and Joao Mosca, Fernando Lima, a journalist, and Fernando Veloso, editor of the Canal de MoCambique newspaper, critical of the ruling Front for the Liberation of Mozambique.

“It’s an unwelcome reminder of the days when prominent civic voices were murdered for opposing segments of the political elite,” Mark Rosenberg, Africa director at Eurasia Group in New York, said in an e-mailed response to questions. “Though it’s very hard to say why Cistac was killed, the murder is more likely the product of current events and political uncertainties than a longer-term outbreak of political violence.”

Antonio Gaspar, a spokesman for President Filipe Nyusi, on Tuesday condemned the shooting and said the Interior Ministry had been instructed to capture the perpetrators.

Mozambique is home to one of the world’s richest deposits of coking coal, and the largest natural gas find in the last decade. Cistac had been quoted in local media this year as saying that calls by the Mozambique National Resistance for greater autonomy for the north and center of the country could be justified under the constitution.

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