Pursued by journalists as he tried to leave home in his car, Rui Rio insisted nothing in this investigation makes sense. Image: SIC Notícias

“Attack on democracy” : PSD reacts to “disproportionality” of Rio circus

PS president of CES (economic and social council) puts boot in too

Wednesday saw the police ‘swoop’ on former PSD leader Rui Rio and other colleagues in a flurry of seemingly overblown activity, resulting in no arrests nor people being cited over the plethora of suspicions.

There were those who wondered out loud if the whole performance was a way of deflecting peoples’ attention from the latest government embarrassments at the defence ministry.

Thursday saw new searches into completely separate suspicions of corruption, and the spectre of Rui Rio assuring journalists from his balcony that ‘next time there are searches’ he will ask the condominium to have made sure the outside of the building looks better, were all but forgotten. By the media, that is.

The PSD, desperate to make capital out of current PS problems, is outraged over what it saw as “excessive disproportionality” in the operation (there were well over 100 police officers involved, seizing people’s telephones and computers, demanding paperwork, pulling out drawers, etc); Mr Rio is smarting from what he sees as an attack on his personal integrity – and the PS’ own Francisco Assis, president of CES, the Economic and Social Council, is “indignant”, considering that judicial cases are increasingly handled in a way that constitutes an “attack on democracy” and “against the Rule of Law”.

Thus, while Rui Rio will be interviewed on SIC television this evening – and given his moment to speak his truth about what he says is “common practice among parties”, not any kind of illegality  – Francisco Assis, whose position is stronger in that he is part of the party in absolute majority, has called on the President of the Republic, the prime minister and the Attorney General to actually say something.

“The blanket of silence of leading political figures is intolerable”, he told Expresso’s morning podcast, suggesting they must be suffering from “an excess of fear and lack of courage…”

From the old days where ‘Secrecy of Justice’ was paramount, to the new apparent normal where every single detail is splashed over the newspapers/ television networks before anyone hears the different sides, Mr Assis told his interviewer that the country’s judicial system is “working with great dysfunctionality” (…) It is entering a “shadow zone of the Rule of Law” that we have seen in other countries.

In the case of the searches on Mr Rio’s Porto apartment block, “there was a very clear intention to criminalise political activity”, he said, stressing that he fears there may have been infiltration from “segments of the extreme right-wing in the judicial system”.

As Rui Rio will doubtless put his own case this evening, Francisco Assis said this whole issue (of employing political advisors with public money) is a political question.

“Key political office holders should have something to say”, from the Prime Minister, to the President of the Republic, to the Attorney General. And they should do so even at the risk of being misunderstood. Starting with Belém: “The president has to make significant interventions at certain times to defend the democratic system”, said Assis.

Expresso columnist Ricardo Costa has dubbed the bizarre activity of Tuesday “Operação Tutti Niente”, a play on the laborious Tutti Frutti investigation that has ground on for years getting nowhere. Niente means nothing (in Italian). This whole episode has been “an aseptic uselessness”, considers Costa.

Rui Rio is to appear on SIC television’s Jornal da Noite this evening.

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