Imprisoned Sócrates “a victim of tricks”, say judges

Appeal court judges have upheld a legal bid by the defence team of José Sócrates, saying no defendant should be a “victim of tricks”.

Their unanimous decision to overrule the so-called “Secrecy of Justice” embargo on Operation Marquês means Sócrates and the eight other defendants in the case will at last be given access to the evidence of corruption said to be stacked against them.

It also means that today (Friday), Sócrates’ lawyers will be going full-steam ahead with efforts to get their client freed from the restraints of house arrest.

The news that controversial judge Rui Rangel and his partner on the bench Francisco Caramelo were unlikely to look well on a situation that has seen a former prime minister deprived of his liberty for 10 months without any formal charges being made – and while allegations are aired publicly in newspapers – was expected.

Rangel particularly has been a vociferous critic of the whole Marquês process – suggesting superjudge Carlos Alexandre has ignored Sócrates’ basic rights “in a serious way”.

The ruling affirmed that no defendant should be the “victim of tricks” that prevent access to alleged evidence.

In short, writes Diário de Notícias, the court decided “that defendants, instead of having access only to what the Public Ministry wants, should be able to see everything: witness statements, recorded telephone conversations, rogatory letters, bank information, etc.”

But the ruling is not automatic. Prosecutors still have at least 10 days to appeal the judges’ decision – and whatever happens, Sócrates is unlikely to get access to the investigation until after the elections on October 4.

Even so, the former Socialist leader’s punchy lawyer João Araújo has told reporters that, at last, the investigation against his client is becoming “a clean game (jogo limpo)”.

José Sócrates was arrested in November last year, suspected of passive corruption, fiscal fraud and money-laundering.

He spent 41 weeks (almost nine months) in Évora jail before being released to house arrest in Lisbon, under a police guard, on September 4.

Appeal court decision “could have repercussions on other cases”

The appeal court decision “could now be invoked in other cases” – particularly BES and Operation Labyrinth, the investigation into so-called Golden Visa corruption.

In a side story following the news on Sócrates this morning, Correio da Manhã explains how a number of inquiries are in the hands of “superjudge” Carlos Alexandre – many involving multiple defendants who have yet to be charged with anything.

Alexandre has prolonged “Secrecy of Justice” in all these cases, to ensure that time allowed for the inquiries are extended, writes CM.

Another investigation now with likely recourse to raise an appeal is “Monte Branco”.

Both Monte Branco and BES involve disgraced BES banking lord Ricardo Salgado, also under house arrest with a police guard for months.

Labyrinth sees three defendants still “imprisoned” – two under house arrest, and one in jail.

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