A new controversy has blown up over a case involving seven GNR agents and the alleged ‘torture’ of Asian agricultural workers in Odemira.
This latest case (following one in which five agents were charged last year click here) involves 33 criminal accusations of abuse of power, kidnap and grievous bodily harm.
At least one of the agents allegedly involved in this latest case was cited in the first.
CNN Portugal devoted a large chunk of airtime last night to the story, leading lawyer Luís Cruz Campos – who represents one of the GNR agents – to complain that the whole case is being politicised.
Indeed, Cruz Campos suggests that “once again, a big confusion” is being orchestrated between “judicial power and political power”.
CNN’s exposure involved the airing of various video clips – said to have been found on the seven agents’ mobile phones – showing “scenes of violence, racist insults, physical torture and humiliation of several immigrants of Asian origin”, explains Lusa.
“Questioned by journalists in Brussels, the prime minister António Costa said he did not understand anyone who would not be shocked by the images” though he himself admitted to not having seen them… This is what appears most to have upset Cruz Campos: “The prime minister should not be commenting on judicial processes”, he told Lusa.
The lawyer has also been appalled by last night’s television coverage by CNN in which “people not connected to the case, lawyers” became “commentators, patently violating the Statue of the Bar Association”.
Yes, the images were “shocking”, the lawyer admitted, but these are videos that serve the basis of a prosecution. Neither the prime minister, nor opinion-makers/ influencers should be talking on television about a case that, in his opinion, “they do not know”.
What has happened are a result of the television coverage is that the case has already been put to a public trial “a lynching” of his client, says Cruz Campos, completely disrespecting “the presumption of innocence”.
The seven agents involved are understood to have all been working out of the GNR’s post at Vila Nova de Milfontes.
By unhappy coincidence tomorrow is the International Day of Migrations. To this end even President Marcelo has entered the controversy, writing on his official page today: “The President of the Republic believes that Justice will be done, quickly, in relation to accusations of unacceptable violations of liberties, rights and guarantees, recalling that security forces and services, as well as the State in general, are particularly responsible for their respect and compliance”.
The president adds that the “the crimes and infractions committed by elements of a force cannot be confused with the mission, dedication and competence of the generality of its members”; concluding that as a nation of peoples known to emigrate “we have one particular responsibility in the quality of a host to immigrants who seek to make a new life here, contributing to the development and well-being of our country”.