“Justice investigations must not be the object of political attack. It is the normal functioning of the Rule of Law”, António Costa told journalists in Carnaxide, Oeiras municipality, after another session of the Recovery and Resilience Plan (PRR) in Motion, this one on the housing sector.

At the end of the session, the Prime Minister answered questions from journalists for almost half an hour about cases involving or affecting members of his Government, and also about the recent searches carried out at the Lisbon Chamber – the municipality he chaired between 2007 and 2015, and was later succeeded by the current Minister of Finance, Fernando Medina, until 2021.

Without speaking directly about the judicial process and the subsequent preventive detention of the former leader of the PS and Prime Minister José Sócrates, in November 2014, the current leader of the executive said that he has systematically repeated since that year the following understanding: There must be a clear separation between political and judicial activity.

“Portugal has an extraordinary privilege: It is one of the countries in the world where there is greater guarantee of the independence of the courts and the autonomy of the Public Ministry. It is a huge privilege because it guarantees all citizens that whoever they are, ordinary citizens or prime ministers, no one is above the law”, he began by replying, after being asked about investigations that may involve several members of his executive.

On a strictly political level, António Costa argued that his Government has been providing investigation entities with the necessary means “so that these investigations are successful”, and cited recent statements by the director of the Judiciary Police, according to which he did not remember any time there has been such a strong reinforcement of means.

“The function of the policy must be to provide the judicial and judicial bodies with the necessary means to pursue the investigation and then respect its functioning. And respecting its operation means two things: Not to interfere or use the activity of judicial entities for political combat”, he stressed.

Next, António Costa developed the principle of the presumption of innocence, highlighting the rights and guarantees inherent to a citizen who is constituted as a defendant, as well as the degree of autonomy enjoyed by the Public Ministry in Portugal.

“Justice must take place serenely, with proper modesty and in the proper place: At the investigation stage, at the Public Prosecutor’s Office; in the phase of deduction of the accusation, in the courts of criminal instruction; and at the trial stage, in the courts,” he pointed out.

According to António Costa, one of the fundamental evolutions in terms of civilization was the consolidation of the rule of law, “no longer having popular trials in the public square and starting to be carried out in accordance with the rules of procedure, with all suspects having the right to from being presumed innocent until convicted.”

“The system was perfected so that, more and more, the judicial authorities were an effectively independent power – and the Public Ministry, in our case, has an autonomy that is unparalleled, which represents a very great confidence factor”, he stressed. .

Still on the issue of justice and politics in Portugal, the leader of the executive left another note: “With our system, citizens know that, if the prime minister commits an illegal act, a crime, it is not because he being prime minister who is above the law and not investigated”.

“He will be investigated like any other citizen suspected of having committed an illegality, but until there is a conviction, people are innocent. Until there is an accusation, people are only defendants ”, he stressed.

At this point, António Costa then sought to underline that, when citizens are constituted as defendants “they have their own procedural status, which gives them increased rights of defense in the face of the ongoing investigation under the direction of the Public Prosecutor’s Office”.

“Therefore, in all serenity, we must let justice take its course, work and await its results”, he added.

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