The extraordinary news emerged over the weekend: Judge Joaquim Neto de Moura – the man pilloried in the press recently over his controversial decisions in cases of domestic violence – has decided to sue everyone who has either publicly derided or made fun of him.
The list is said to include at least 20 politicians, journalists, commentators and cartoonists, and this is only the beginning.
The judge’s lawyer told reporters on Saturday: “We are still looking into all the people who have offended his dignity. We cannot accept that a State governed by law can insult someone”.
Catarina Martins, leader of the country’s Left Bloc whose MP Mariana Mortágua is among those already made the subject of ‘civil actions’, has quipped that Neto de Moura will ultimately have to sue ‘most of the whole country’.
Indeed his arguably most controversial decision – to reduce sentencing on two men who battered an adulterous woman, on the basis that ‘adultery is a grave attack on a man’s honour and dignity’ – has also been the subject of derision within the international press.
The UK Guardian for example, concluded its report on the story that hit national headlines two years ago, saying it showed that “ultra-orthodox patriarchy – one of the cornerstones of the fascist dictatorship of António Salazar up until the 1974 revolution – still survives in parts of Portugal”, while the Washington Post commented that Neto de Moura and his supporting magistrate on the bench “felt it was somewhat understandable that a husband in a depressive state would act out against an ex-wife who had betrayed him”.
This situation comes in a year when domestic violence has been brought sharply into focus: 11 women have been killed since the start of the year, prompting the creation of the first ‘national day of mourning’ for victims of domestic violence (click here).
It also shines a light on Portugal’s laws of defamation which critics say need bringing up to speed with the 21st century.
This is still a country where anyone can take out a civil case against another party for so-called offences against one’s honour.
Over 9000 people delivered a petition to parliament last year, calling for an end to the law which they denounce as “medieval and obsolete” (click here).
Meantime, some of the ‘insults’ thrown at Judge Neto include contentions that he needs a ‘psychological exam’, that he is “an insult to all judges”, and that he reaches his decisions on the basis of his own personal feelings.
Neto de Moura has been a judge for the last 30 years.
Say reports, he is known as the ‘judge who does not laugh’.
His retaliation against critics follows two recent rulings. The one referring to the woman beaten (with a nail spiked club) for her adultery, and another in which he removed an electronic bracelet from a man who had beaten his former partner so badly that her eardrum ruptured (click here).
The first ruling has led to him being given a ‘warning’ by the Supreme Court of Justice (click here).