Casa Pia defendants walk free

After one of the longest and most confusing legal cases in Portugal, two defendants in the Casa Pia pedophile scandal have walked free.
Lisbon’s court of appeal confirmed a previous decision over the “Elvas House” part of the trial that absolved former TV personality Carlos Cruz, lawyer Hugo Marçal, driver Carlos Silvino and Gertrudes Nunes (the owner of the house).
Nunes and Marçal effectively walked free – after the shadow of this high-profile scandal has dogged them since 2003 and 2004, respectively – but Cruz and Silvino, both serving time for pedophile offences also connected to Casa Pia, remain behind bars.
How this decision could affect Cruz, Silvino and any other of the jailed defendents’ sentences remains to be seen.
According to Público newspaper “various protagonists” in the case consider the decision finally brings the 10-year case to a conclusion.
Prosecution lawyer Miguel Matias told Público: “In principle, I will go along with this decision.”
Hugo Marçal’s lawyer agreed: “This saga is closed,” she told Público.
But Carlos Cruz’s lawyer, Ricardo Sá Fernandes, is reported to be of a very different opinion. His client is currently serving a six-year prison sentence after years under house arrest after the scandal first broke.
Cruz has always maintained his innocence and, like many of the defendants in the case, has seen his personal life and professional career torn apart by the allegations, which centred on years of abuse of young boys at the state-run institution.
“Of course this is not over,” Sá Fernandes told Público. The lawyer is still reportedly awaiting a decision by the European Tribunal over a complaint he lodged against the Portuguese state over Cruz’s conviction.
Sá Fernandes also said he was not even aware whether Cruz knew of the appeal court decision. Due to the ongoing prison guards’ strike, he explained that he had been unable to contact his client, but he stressed that he would be working on a new bid to “ask for a revision of the initial sentence”.
His reasoning, he explained, lies in the fact that “nothing happened in Elvas” and that this therefore affects the rest of the charges.
“In this case, Elvas was at the centre of everything,” he said.
Other people jailed as a result of the allegations include former Unesco ambassador Jorge Ritto (now purportedly suffering from terminal illness), doctor Ferreira Dinis (recently released due to his own terminal medical condition) and former Casa Pia boss Manuel Abrantes.
Other high profile names have been connected to the scandal, including a number of welll-known celebrities and even politicians.