State secrets, or trial by media drip-feed? The silent agony of a Portuguese Civil servant

​Following a week in which international media has honed in on a Portuguese appeal court ruling criticised for taking the issue of Equal Rights back to the Dark Ages (click here), the Resident has been made aware of a case almost every bit as bleak – although the ‘victim’ has not been beaten with a nail-spiked club.

Career civil servant attached to Portugal’s SIS (equivalent of the secret service), Frederico Gil has instead been consigned to a seemingly interminable period of house arrest.

For the last 18 months – since his extradition from Italy on what his lawyer described at the time as “completely trumped up charges” – the 58-year-old single man (divorced) has been ‘incarcerated’, first in Lisbon’s high-security jail, Monsanto, and then in his tiny Lisbon apartment, devoid of any outdoor space.

His crime, the media was quick to inform, is espionage; collusion at the highest level; the sale of NATO secrets (for €10,000 a pop) “ongoing for years” (click here).

For months absolutely nothing emerged on Gil’s alleged treachery, then we were told it involved selling confidential information on five high-ranking Portuguese whose details were freely available over the Internet.

In June this year, he was finally accused of espionage, violation of State secrets, active and passive corruption (click here).

The case involves “a Russian citizen” (an alleged Russian intelligence agent) who was freed early on in this saga by Italian judges on the basis that there were no grounds for extradition to Portugal to face ​any charges.

As far as is clear, the Russian citizen is now home in Russia.

Gil, meantime, is quietly going round the bend in his cramped apartment, unable to live any kind of life.

Every attempt by his lawyer to see him freed pending trial has fallen flat.

Next week, the lawyer hopes to be able to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights.

In his appeal to the refusal of the Supreme Court to grant a writ of Habeas Corpus on October 25, he said this is yet another case of Portuguese Justice stuck in the era of Salazar.

The terms of Gil’s detention fly in the face of so many “basic human rights” that it is a “scandal”, says his lawyer. But it is taking so long to take bids for his liberty through the necessary paces so that it can make the leap from Portugal to Strasbourg.

Meantime, the ‘strange issue of media silence’; “the absolute disinterest in investigative reporting” and the repetition of ‘drip-fed’ revelations under the skirts of judicial secrecy.

The truth, we were told months ago, is that Gil’s ‘crime’ is in trying to broker a deal for olive oil.

At a time when Russia was busy navigating the blockade of economic sanctions, Portugal’s ‘help’ was sought in providing that ‘nectar of the gods’ that Russian citizens have come to appreciate every bit as much as populations in the West.

State secrets? “Show us the evidence”, says Gil’s lawyer. “Then at least we can answer”.

With luck, this story will be picked up by English-speaking media as yet another case
​in which Portuguese justice is seen to be ​fall​ing short of demands set for a democratic Europe.

Every year this country is fined, upbraided or otherwise in the news for rulings that flout modern values.

But it is not so common to find a case where the nation’s media is so singularly quiet. And that, says Gil’s legal champions, speaks volumes.


Since publishing this story online (last week), Gil’s court date has been set (November 23) and an international arrest warrant issued for his so-called Russian handler.

According to Diário de Notícias, whether he is captured or not, Sergey Nicolaevich Pozdnyakov will be tried in Portugal in his absence.

Gil’s lawyer meantime is pushing for a trial by jury, not simply one in front of a judge.

From the submission he filed to Lisbon’s criminal court it is clear that he fears his client will not get a fair hearing without one.

Intriguingly, the comments reacting to DN’s story about the upcoming trial seem to agree with him.

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