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Maria José Fernandes is one of a number of 'deputy attorney generals' who work out of the Attorney General's Office in Lisbon

Deputy Attorney General faces disciplinary procedure for opinion article

Maria José Fernandes criticised actions of public prosecutors following Operation Influencer

The Superior Council of the Public Prosecution Service (CSMP) is opening disciplinary proceedings against deputy attorney general Maria José Fernandes, who criticised the actions of public prosecutors following ‘Operation Influencer’ – the investigation that effectively torpedoed Portugal’s absolute majority Socialist government two months ago.

A source linked to the process has confirmed to Lusa a report published yesterday evening by Visão magazine, explaining that the CSMP’s decision resulted from the conversion of a previous investigation into the magistrate, on the grounds that she may have violated the duties of reserve, loyalty and correctness.

The inspector in charge of the inquiry is understood to be suggesting that Fernandes simply be given a warning – the least serious possible sanction.

Contacted by Lusa, Fernandes also confirmed the disciplinary process, although she said she has not yet been formally notified.

“I can only say that I am calm and that I will defend myself with some ease,” she said, adding: “I already expected (the disciplinary process) because the magistrates are in the majority in the disciplinary section” (of the CSMP).

The initial investigation was prompted by a report sent into the Attorney General’s Office by the director of DIAP (the Central Department of Investigation and Criminal Action), Francisco Narciso.

Proscutors took exception to the deputy attorney general’s article, originally published in Público, questioning on how it was possible to get this far, that is, to “take decisions that have caused a monumental political crisis and consequences (that) are still in the offing” without a judge of criminal instruction agreeing with the detailed ‘suspicions’.

Maria José Fernandes “questioned the working and investigative methods of public prosecutors”, explains Lusa

In her article, she referred to “the outcomes of various cases that have already been judged allow us to see that there are aspects of the work of investigating prosecutors that need to be reviewed and improved through the exercise of self-criticism.

Fernandes’ article received “mixed reactions”, according to CNN Portugal, although the majority agreed with her.

Said one political commentator: “When an individual is held in detention for five days, and at the end of this period sent home without any accusation, we, as citizens, have the right to demand that someone is made responsible, at least internally. Prosecutors who do not act with the rigor demanded of anyone in their position, must respond, because if a public prosecutor feels he/ she has impunity, he/ she can do whatever he/she wants. This has happened now with ‘important people’ (referring here to ministers/ the prime minister and others involved in Operation Influencer) “but it could happen to anybody. It could be us…”

Source material: LUSA/ CNN Portugal