Defamation and disobedience: Madeiran MP condemned to three and a half years in jail

Madeiran MP José Manuel Coelho was condemned to jail today for the next three and a half years. He has said he will be appealing – if necessary all the way to the European Court of Human Rights.

This is a man with a history of eccentricity who has staged numerous unorthodox protests in parliament.

On one occasion he unfurled a Nazi flag (in protest to the policies of the island’s PSD party), on another he wore a kitchen clock round his neck (protesting to a moratorium on speeches) and in 2016 he actually stripped off to his altogether, causing the entire chamber to be evacuated (click here).

Jail terms, both suspended and ‘effective’, are not new to him.

He has been ‘prosecuted’ by various parties. But up till now he hasn’t actually served any time.

Say reports, the representative of Madeira’s Partido Trabalhista Português (workers’ party) stood accused of around 20 crimes “among them qualified defamation, aggravated slander, and qualified disobedience due to statements made against various entities, some during election campaign periods”.

Coelho was actually condemned on only four counts of aggravated defamation against various people, namely a former PSD party leader, a court bailiff, a public ministry prosecutor and a local businessman. The rest of the charges were dropped.

He was also ordered to pay 28,000 euros in damages.

Leaving court today, Coelho told reporters that he “couldn’t pay” the damages and would have to declare bankruptcy.

Says SIC television news, the court’s decision resulted from the several sentences Coelho has received over his political career. It considered the politician “has a propensity for this type of crime against the honour of people and shows himself not to believe in Justice”.

The last high profile jail-term for defamation came almost three years ago, and involved a 50-year-old woman (click here) who actually had to serve two years of her sentence in a hard-core women’s prison, with her release last November conditional on her keeping her silence (click here).

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