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Maddie case prompts crisis within Justice

Correio da Manhã*

Director's statements open new war at the PJ

After having set Gonçalo Amaral aside because of public statements from the officer that was in charge of the Maddie case investigation, the national director is now under fire for having said, also publicly, that there was 'precipitation' from the entity that he directs and from the Public Ministry in constituting the McCanns as arguidos.

Alipio Ribeiro's statements contradict what he defended himself about the Maddie case earlier on (see column with citations) and are classified as 'very serious' by judges and prosecutors, but also by high-ranking officials within the Judiciaria, who did not appreciate the director's stance. CM asked the Ministry of Justice whether Alipio Ribeiro, a longtime friend of [Justice Minister] Alberto Costa, has the necessary conditions to remain in his post, but until this edition closed, there was no reply. The Public Prosecutor's Office has also remained silent.

An exclusive decision for the PJ

The Public Ministry agreed, but the decision to make Kate and Gerry McCann arguidos was taken by Goncalo Amaral, a coordinator at the PJ and the official who was formerly in charge of the case. He took "a decision that was exclusively from the PJ, which has autonomy within the investigation", a senior police officer recalls for CM. And he adds: "The national director speaks of precipitation now, based on his experience as a prosecutor within the Public Ministry - but, by doing this, he is distancing himself from the entity that he directs, in order to position himself alongside the magistrature."

Alipio Ribeiro's statements didn't go well with the PJ's high-ranking officials, having been seen "once again" as coming from "someone who does not defend his police, and who likes to reaffirm his status as a magistrate under these situations - more balanced than policemen when it is time to make decisions".

Another leading PJ official says that this is not the first time that the national director has surprised with his public statements. When he was questioned by journalists over the role that the Public Ministry's special team, lead by prosecutor Helena Fazenda, has in fighting crime in Oporto nightlife, Alipio Ribeiro said it was "to investigate. But he showed a complete lack of knowledge because the processes that concern those crimes were already being investigated by the PJ in Oporto..."

Searches in the Arade reservoir have been suspended

The searches that have been comissioned by Madeira lawyer Marcos Aragão in the Arade reservoir, near Portimao, were suspended yesterday, and today it was not yet known whether they would continue. The decision was prompted by the divers' tiredness, due to the difficulties they encountered in exploring the area. At the reservoir's bottom, visibility is almost none and the divers search only with their hands.

Marcos Aragao is determined not to abandon the searches. He is convinced that Madeleine's body was dumped in that location, and the lawyer guaranteed to CM that "until the reservoir is completely searched" he has no reasons "to doubt the leads". Leads that he states he collected, but which he does not reveal.

During the four days that the searches in the reservoir have lasted for, the divers only found a rope made out of blinds' strings and a piece of wood. The operation started on Thursday and lasted until Sunday. Marcos Aragão guarantees that he has spent approximately five thousand euros out of his own pocket.

Alipio Ribeiro's contradictions

- "I don't see that as predictable [changing coercion measures on the couple], even though it is a decision that is for the Public Ministry to make, which has accompanied the entire investigation because its direction belongs to them. It is obvious that they will evaluate the situation, but I don't see a need for that, at the moment." September 10, on RTP

- "All the investigation lines will remain open. There will only be conclusions drawn at the end. At this moment, it would be speculation and none of us wants to prompt speculation because that would hurt the investigation. This is not an easy investigation." October 10, during a press conference

- "[The rogatory letter to interrogate the McCann couple's friends] is ready and will travel to England with a team, within days. [...] The investigation lacks a click." October 21, to 'El Pais'

Lawyers explore statement

The Portuguese lawyers that represent the McCanns, Carlos Pinto de Abreu and Rogerio Alves, didn't loose any time, and after Alipio Ribeiro's words were published, they revealed that they are pondering a request to change Kate and Gerry's status in the process: from arguidos to assistants.

"Normally, the arguido situation runs until the end of the inquiry. But during the inquiry there can be a change of status", the former head of the Bar explained, and admitted to request the change from arguido status to that of assistants to the Public Ministery "in short term".

Reactions

"Offend the Police and the Public Ministery" Rui Rangel, Judge

"The statements from the PJ's director are what is precipitated, extremely serious and needless. They show a lack of responsibility and they offend the credibility of the PJ and the Public Ministry."

"Those are complicated statements" António Martins, Judge

"Those are complicated statements, internally for the Policia Judiciaria to begin with, in the relationship between that police force and the Public Ministery, and for him personally."

"It is serious. He could not speak out." Fernando Negrão, Former Director of the PJ

"Those are serious statements. And there was precipitation, yes, but from the PJ's director. It is not a part of his job to speak out about about a process that is under investigation and which has a person that is responsible for it, who is the prosecutor."

(...)

*Translation by Astro


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