A Portuguese electrician – wrongly convicted for a crime he didn’t commit in Oman, and left without any effective consular assistance for months – has won €125,000 in compensation.
Lisbon’s administrative tribunal found that the Portuguese embassy “never offered to pay for a lawyer, or advance any money (to pay for one) despite the fact that the law predicates that legal support (from the embassy) must be given when necessary, possible and adequate”.
Indeed, the court added that it found it incredible that the ministry of foreign affairs “always refused to ensure by any means the aforementioned legal assistance”.
As a result, Agostinho Alves suffered “irreparable psychological harm”, passing through various jails in Oman and Saudi Arabia, not speaking a word of Arabic, and not understanding anything that was happening to him.
The unfortunate Alves endured situations where there were 50 inmates to one toilet; cells without natural light – where artificial light was on 24-hours a day – and one jail where lunch “always chicken and rice”, was served every day in a plastic bag.
To add to the awfulness of the situation, none of it needed to have happened: aside from the fact that Alves was innocent of the crime for which he had been erroneously convicted, the court heard how a SEF inspector was aware of a warrant out for the electrician’s arrest, but didn’t tell him.
As Alves boarded a flight to Oman that would end with him being frog-marched into jail, the inspector simply asked him “if he had committed any crime”.
Explain reports, Alves said no and prepared for the flight.
Said the court in Lisbon, the SEF inspector should have acted there and then, particularly as Portugal has no extradition agreement with Oman.
As it was, Alves spent 83 days in miserable detention, passing through jails both in Oman and Saudi Arabia. Had it not been for the help of a Portuguese woman he met, he could have stayed even longer.
The woman, an interpreter, ensured that Alves got clean clothes, fresh fruit and the kind of legal help he needed.
Say reports, thanks to her Alves finally found a lawyer that his loved ones back home could afford and within a week of the lawyer taking the case, Alves was absolved.
This is the second case this week in which Portuguese authorities which should have protected the rights of citizens have been found dismally lacking, and ordered to pay for their shortcomings.
The first case involved a British national left in jail in Lisbon for a ‘crime’ that should never have warranted so much time in preventive custody (click here).