Judges’ association denounces improper maneuvers against judge in Madeira case

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The Trade Union Association of Portuguese Judges (ASJP) denounces improper maneuvers to attack the investigating judge who interrogated the three defendants suspected of corruption in Madeira and eventually decided to release them after three weeks in detention.

“Without prejudice to the free and democratic scrutiny of the work of the judiciary, which is entirely legitimate and healthy, all maneuvers, from wherever they come, aimed at publicly discrediting the judge, whether to gain an advantage in the process or for any other reason, are inappropriate. Judicial cases are not ‘wars’ between procedural subjects, nor are they decided on the pages of newspapers or on television and radio programs,” he denounced in a statement today.

The decision by the ASJP’s general council follows a note released on Friday by the Attorney General’s Office (PGR), in which it contested Judge Jorge Bernardes de Melo’s opinion that there was no evidence of crimes by the now former mayor of Funchal Pedro Calado and the businessmen Avelino Farinha and Custódio Correia, recalling that five other investigating judges had previously taken decisions under the conviction that there was criminal evidence.

The Public Prosecutor’s Office (MP), which had requested the pre-trial detention of the three suspects, regretted the delay in the interrogation and assumed that the prosecutors in the case had alerted the judge to speed up the proceedings and made a presentation to the Superior Council of the Judiciary (CSM), which has since ruled out opening an investigation into Jorge Bernardes de Melo.

The ASJP admitted its “strangeness and concern” at the delay in the interrogation and the “exceptionally long and excessive time” that the three defendants were detained, but rejected the judge’s public condemnation without clarifying the situation and pointed out that the order for coercive measures can be appealed to the Lisbon Court of Appeal.

“Since the procedural causes of this delay, who caused it and to what extent, are not yet known, until they are ascertained, it is at the very least frivolous and hasty to draw conclusions and assign blame,” said the union, which also reiterated the importance of “weighing up the practices and rules applicable” to avoid a repetition of situations like the one in Madeira.

In recent days, several media outlets had also reported that a prosecutor in the case had been a witness against the investigating judge in a disciplinary case a few years ago, when Jorge Bernardes de Melo was not yet at the Central Criminal Investigation Court (TCIC).

On this matter, the SCJ replied to Lusa that “there is nothing in the judge’s disciplinary record” and that, “if it had existed, it would have been canceled under the terms of the article of the statute that provides for such cancellation after a certain period of time”, invoking “the right to be forgotten”.

In this context, the ASJP stressed that the current system for placing judges is based on annual competitions with service and seniority ratings, which “guarantees from the outset that all judges have the necessary qualifications to carry out the duties legally assigned to them in the cases under their responsibility”.

On January 24, the PJ carried out around 130 home and non-home searches, mainly in Madeira, but also in the Azores and various parts of the mainland, as part of a case investigating suspicions of active and passive corruption, economic participation in business, malfeasance, receiving or offering undue advantage, abuse of power and influence peddling.

The investigation also affected the then president of the Regional Government of Madeira (PSD/CDS-PP), Miguel Albuquerque, who was made a defendant and ended up resigning from office, which led to the resignation of the Madeiran executive.

Moti Shabi
Moti Shabi
Moti Shabi

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