Court finds seven guilty in Portuguese paedophile case
TV personality among those who abused children in care homes
Lisbon (DPA) A Portuguese court yesterday found seven defendants guilty of criminal offences in a highprofile paedophilia case which shocked the nation and eroded faith in its public institutions.
The defendants, who included several prominent personalities, were charged with having abused or helped to abuse dozens of children staying at the state-owned Casa Pia children’s homes.
Criminal evidence had been shown against the defendants, the court said. Verdicts were expected to be announced later in the day
The accused are former Casa Pia driver Carlos Silvino, former Casa Pia supervisor Manuel Abrantes, popular television presenter Carlos Cruz, former Portuguese diplomat Jorge Ritto, lawyer Hugo Marcal, high society doctor Joao Ferreira Diniz and Gertrudes Nunes, a woman suspected of allowing her house to be used for abuse.
The accused had been conscious that they broke the law and that their behaviour would do physical and psychological harm to their victims, the court said.
Silvino was charged with abusing and procuring children for wealthy paedophiles in return for payment.
The driver is the only one among the defendants to have pleaded guilty to some of the charges. He explained his behaviour by saying he himself had been abused as a child.
The scandal broke in November 2002 when a media report uncovered the alleged abuse of children, most of them boys, over several decades. Evidence of abuse at the Casa Pia homes had surfaced in the 1980s, but investigations were dropped and documents disappeared in what some believe was a cover-up.
In the trial, 32 alleged victims testified, providing gruesome accounts of the abuse they said they suffered.
The five-year trial was the longest ever in Portugal.
Charges were dropped against three people during the trial, including a former labour minister.
Moves by defence lawyers lengthened proceedings, drawing attention to the perceived slowness and inefficiency of Portugal’s judicial system.
The defendants “are people without scruples,” an alleged victim named Miguel, now aged 23, told the daily Publico. “And they don’t feel any remorse ... Those things are in my memory, they come up in nightmares.”
The prominent accused, on the other hand, claimed that false accusations had ruined their lives. Not all the abusers had been brought to justice, one of the victims, Bernardo Teixeira, said yesterday. Many people had gotten away with their crimes because of the “errors of police and the state,” he charged.