Attorney General Lucília Gago

Public prosecutors fear new directive from Attorney General “flings doors of justice open to political meddling”

A major barney has erupted following a new directive from Attorney General Lucília Gago, which public prosecutors fear “flings the doors of justice open to political meddling”.

The syndicate of magistrates has announced that it will be fighting the directive through the courts, and collecting signatures among its professionals in a bid to see the directive overturned.

Gago’s new rules essentially focus on the possibility of ‘intervention of the hierarchy in judicial processes’.

Explain reports, the plan is that this intervention would not even need to be ‘recorded’.

Say magistrates, it’s the return to the ‘dark days of opacity’ in which so many high profile cases were skewered from on high.

With TSF radio running a forum today, with the question: “Is the independence of the Public Ministry at risk”, popular tabloid Correio da Manhã gives the issue some context.

It seems to have been ‘tailor-made’ for the ongoing ‘Tancos controversy’ – the rather ludicrous case into the disappearance and subsequent reappearance of munitions from a military arsenal (click here).

Tancos has reached a courtroom for the ‘hearing of evidence’ to determine whether there is indeed any kind of case to answer. Prosecutors had asked to hear both prime minister António Costa and president Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, but the director of DCIAP (the department of criminal investigation and penal action) opposed the request – though this opposition “has not been included in the process”, says CM.

President of the syndicate of magistrates André Ventinhas is in no doubt, the new directive harks back “to what we heard in the Face Oculta case on secret files that ended up archived in the Attorney General’s office without anyone knowing what was in them”.

He predicted that unless the plan is rethought there will come “a complete divorce” between the Attorney General’s Office and Public Ministry magistrates.

His feelings have been reinforced by former justice minister (PSD) Paula Teixeira da Cruz, who described the new rules as “unconstitutional, and an attack of the rule of law”.

“Where is the transparency?” She queried, in interview with TSF, explaining that in a State of law, “any and all interventions have to be recorded”.

Encouraging magistrates to keep up their lines of attack, Ms da Cruz dubbed the directive “very serious”, allowing for the “politicization of the judiciary that for me is inadmissible. From today forwards no one will know if a superior hierarchy will intervene or not, and in what sense…”

Meantime, TSF’s forum has seen 80% say ‘yes’ to the question: “is the independence of the Public Ministry at risk”, and MPs in parliament agree that further explanation from the Attorney General herself may be opportune.

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