The words of former minister of interior administration Eduardo Cabrita – that he was “just a passenger” when his official car hit and killed a service worker on the A6 motorway last summer – are coming back to haunt him today.
Public prosecutors have called for Mr Cabrita’s parliamentary immunity to be lifted, in order to be able to cite him as an ‘official suspect’ in the case for negligent homicide.
So far, the case still has only one official suspect – the driver of the car, Marco Pontes.
But following various legal arguments and pressure from the Associação de Cidadãos Auto-Mobilizados (an association of drivers click here), the Public Ministry has accepted that there should be more: more specifically, Mr Cabrita and his PSP security detail Nuno Dias (click here).
Reopening the case last week, the DIAP (department of investigation and penal action) of Évora conceded that reappraisal of the initial investigation revealed “alleged omissive conduct” of the former minister which was not “appreciated” before it was closed.
Thus this alleged omissive conduct needs to be “assessed” in order to see if there really is “criminal relevance” that could lead to a conviction.
DIAP’s director José Franco has concluded that “these steps must be made”, even if in the end the decision is that neither Mr Cabrita, nor Nuno Dias hold any criminal liability.
Updating this tortuous story today, Expresso adds that during the original inquiry “Eduardo Cabrita was only heard four months after the accident, contrary to the rest of the witnesses, questioned shortly after the fatal collision”.
“When he gave his statement, Mr Cabrita stressed that he did not give any indication as to the speed to be adopted, nor the urgency to reach the destination. As for his work schedule that day, he stated that he had no external appointments scheduled, only internal meetings with entities of the Ministry of Internal Administration (MAI), and members of his office, starting at 2.30pm and taking place at the ministry”, said the paper.
The issue with ‘not having given any indication as to speed’ is that legally Mr Cabrita was the ‘hierarchical superior of Marco Pontes’, with “legal power to give him orders and instructions and demand obedience”, argues lawyer Paulo Graça, representing the Associação de Cidadãos Auto-Mobilizados.
Marco Pontes was driving over the legal speed limit, and in the left-hand (fast) lane, even though he was not overtaking.
Another crinkle in the official story is that Mr Cabrita’s security detail was travelling in the car behind the BMW, when in theory the PSP agent should have been in the same car as the minister he was entrusted to protect (click here).