Jailed former PM José Sócrates is clearing his prison cell ahead of impending release

José Sócrates, behind bars for almost nine months, is described this week as having the “profound conviction” that he will be released, if not in the next few days, by September 9. News reports point to friends already helping “clear” Sócrates’ cell of books and CDs, while the release date, by coincidence, could fall on the exact day scheduled for a key head-to-head TV election debate between PSD leader Pedro Passos Coelho and the PS Socialists man-at-the-helm António Costa.

As tabloid Correio da Manhã explains, if this was to happen, it could well “divert” attention from the looming elections – something neither of the two main parties in the running would relish.

But the truth is that the legality of keeping Sócrates behind bars any longer is running thin.

As CM points out, the public prosecutor’s contention that a release could damage the course of the ongoing inquiry cannot hold water after nine months.

Indeed, the authorities were ready to let the former PS prime minister home in June, on the understanding that he would consent to the wearing of an electronic bracelet – which he refused.

Now, sources say release conditions could be altered to involve house arrest with a police guard, in exactly the same way as prosecutors have dealt with former BES bank boss Ricardo Salgado.

Meantime, Sócrates remains suspected of corruption, fiscal fraud and money-laundering on a vast scale but has yet to be charged officially with anything.

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