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The 20 were detained by wardens of the Gorongosa National Park with truckloads of precious hardwood from trees cut down in the park’s buffer zone.
To the amazement of the Gorongosa wardens, according to Wednesday’s issue of the independent publication Mediafax, judge Leonid de Bruna Muhate claimed that the detention was illegal since the group was “not caught red-handed”.
This, however, sharply contradicts the evidence from the wardens who said they found the loggers loading logs of protected species of trees onto the trucks.
The loggers could not present any documents justifying the large amount of timber that had been cut down and were trying to remove.
Although judge Muhate criticised the detention, he did at least accept that the loggers had committed a crime of illegal exploitation of forestry resources.
Nonetheless, he released them on the grounds that the loggers had been acting on the instructions of their employers.
The court declared that the group consisted of Inchope Madeiras workers, a company based in the neighbouring province of Manica, who had been sent by their employer to fetch the logs from the work yard of EDN.
According to the judge, it was thus EDN that was probably guilty of the illegal exploitation of forestry resources.
Judge Muhate granted provisional freedom to 19 of the 20 accused who must present themselves to the court every fortnight.
The leader of the group, a Chinese named Won Won, faces a corruption charge for attempting to bribe the Gorongosa wardens with 30,000 meticais (about $492).
The wardens rejected the bribe.
Won was released on a 150,000 meticais bail.Source: AIM
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