President wants Casa Pia case to be cleared up.jpg

President wants Casa Pia case to be cleared up


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PORTUGUESE PRESIDENT Cavaco Silva has called on investigations into the Casa Pia children’s home scandal to be ‘pursued to the end’.

Speaking during a visit to the Azores, the President said that the child sexual abuse scandal “should be completely cleared up to the last detail” and that “all entities involved should do their work”.

Cavaco Silva made his comments public only days after former Casa Pia police investigator, Paulo Rebelo, was put in charge of the investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann in Portimão, replacing Gonçalo Amaral, who was relieved of his duties last week by national Polícia Judiciária police director, Alípio Ribeiro.

The latest moves in both the McCann case and the Casa Pia investigation also come days after explosive ‘tell-all’ revelations in the weekend broadsheet newspaper Sol by retired Casa Pia director Catalina Pestana, in which she claimed sexual abuses of minors within the state-run establishment for orphans and children at risk were “still going on”.

New suspicions

In the first of a sensational two-part series of interviews, Catalina Pestana, who retired from her position as now defunct Governess or Prefect, Provedor, of Casa Pia in May, was quoted as saying: “I have no doubts that (sexual) abuses are still going on within Casa Pia in Lisbon.”

However, the President of the Board of Directors of Casa Pia in Lisbon said that she had no reasons to support the allegations by Catalina Pestana that sexual abuse was still going on within the institution. “I guarantee that I have been given no reasons to believe that sexual abuse is going on within this house,” said Joaquina Madeira in a statement to the Portuguese wire news service Lusa.

The new director of Casa Pia stressed that she had “no knowledge of any new cases of sexual abuse having come to light at the institution in the past 18 months.

“There is nothing to indicate strange behaviour of this type and I can only speak about what I know (of the past), and from that point of view I will always be on guard and will never rest easy.

“These kind of problems exist in society as a whole, but within Casa Pia I have no proof at all that would lead me to believe sexual abuse was going on,” she added, saying that nothing had come to light from the frequent meetings with professional staff at the institution.

As regards to external paedophile networks using Casa Pia pupils for sexual abuse, Joaquina Madeira said that Catalina Pestana “had done exactly what should have been done” in making public her suspicions and was fully within her rights.    

Immediately afterwards, the Casa Pia employees association, Associação de Trabalhadores de CPL, accused Catalina Pestana of having “created a climate of terror” while Governess of the institution.

Catalina Pestana was named Governess at the end of 2003 after the paedophile case became public. On May 10 this year, one day before her retirement from the post, she wrote a letter to the Procurator-General of the Republic (PGR) in which she detailed her suspicions that abuse was still going on.

The President of the Republic said it was important to clear up the matter for the sake of “all Portuguese” while adding that he would “shortly” be meeting with the PGR “not to speak about this case in particular but to discuss the investigation in general”.

Casa Pia, as a charitable institution, was founded in Lisbon in 1780 by Pina Manique, as a kind of workhouse with the original aim of reforming child vagrants, thieves and idlers and educating orphans through basic reading and writing skills and work.

Two years after its founder’s death, the institution closed because of the Napoleonic Wars, only reopening again in 1812 in the Convento do Desterro (now the closed Hospital do Desterro in Lisbon).

In 1833, it was moved to better premises within the walls of the monastery of Jerónimos and, by 1834, was training and teaching the deaf. It moved to its present premises in 1942.

The Casa Pia scandal broke in the autumn of 2002, when a former Casa Pia pupil and boarder alleged in an interview with journalist Felícia Cabrita of having suffered sexual abuse as a boy and teenager in the institution.

Media circus

The principal figures named as being allegedly responsible for the abuse included the TV and radio presenters Carlos Cruz and Herman José, the retired diplomat Jorge Ritto, among other public figures and a former driver at Casa Pia, Carlos Silvino, known by the nickname of ‘Bibi’.

On December 29, 2004, the Procurator-General (Chief Republic Prosecutor), José Souto Moura, formally accused various personalities of homosexual sexual abuse with minors (paedophilia).

These included the archaeologist Francisco Alves, a former Casa Pia doctor Ferreira Diniz, the former Minister for Social Security under the PS government of António Guterres and present parliamentary deputy, Paulo Pedroso.

The trials and hearings began on November 25, 2004 with six indicted defendants: Carlos Silvino, Carlos Cruz, Jorge Ritto, Ferreira Diniz, Manuel Abrantes, Hugo Marçal and Gertrudes Nunes.

The case, which has become a media circus costing the state several million euros, has been dragging on ever since with claims, counter claims, sensational revelations, dubious evidence given by former pupils and male prostitutes, and public and private hearings.

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