Conflicting demos outside Sócrates’ jail marked by “high tension”, insults and allegations of attempted murder

Two conflicting protests on Sunday outside Évora prison and centring on jailed former prime minister José Sócrates saw tensions running high as one group accused the other of attempted murder.

Order began unravelling when a vehicle ‘mounted’ by members of the nationalist group PNR “moved off” sending people flying in every direction.

As Jornal de Notícias explained, the PNR supporters had climbed onto the vehicle – belonging to a member of the Civic Movement José Sócrates – because they objected to the movement’s adulation of the man that they consider to be a “thief”, and wanted to stick protest stickers on the car’s supportive posters.

PNR also voiced suspicions of how a civic movement could afford so much pro-Sócrates’ publicity material, including banners, billboards, and loud hailers.

“I would like to know who pays for all this. Where are the receipts? It’s just another misuse of money Sócrates-style,” PNR president José Pinto Coelho told the paper, adding that climbing onto the car had been “an act of indignation” whereas “a car taking off at high speed causing our members to fall” was “attempted murder”.

In the hurly burly of the moment, one PNR member “felt unwell” and had to be assisted by INEM medical workers before police managed to calm things down and leave Sócrates’ supporters unmolested to circle the prison perimeter chanting their support for the former PM whose custodial bail order comes up for review on September 9.

According to reports elsewhere, Sócrates’ supporters promise another demo outside the prison if their champion is not released from preventive custody.

PNR nationalists have also said they will be protesting – though if Sócrates remains in jail, it is not certain what they will have to protest about.

Intriguingly, the day Sócrates’ custodial order comes up for review is also the day scheduled for a head-to-head TV election debate between coalition PM Pedro Passos Coelho and would-be Socialist victor António Costa.

As political commentators have queried, it is hard to see which one would be worst affected by the release of Sócrates weeks before the legislative elections.

By NATASHA DONN [email protected]