FECL 42 (March 1996):

LATE AMNESTY FOR OTELO

On 1 March, the Portuguese Parliament finally passed an amnesty law white-washing more then 70 defendants sentenced for "membership of a terrorist association" in the so-called FUP/FP-25 mass-trial.

One of the defendants in the trial was Otelo de Cravalho, the hero of Portugal's "Carnation revolution" of 1974. In 1984, he was arrested, together with 70 other members of his small left-wing party, FUP, on terrorism charges.

The accusation against Otelo was based on a deliberately maintained confusion between his FUP party and FP-25, a clandestine armed organisation which claimed responsibility for a range of bloody attacks in the early 80s.

Although Otelo and other FUP-members were never accused of any involvement in the attacks, many of them were sentenced to long prison terms, based on the accusation's never proven claim that the FP-25 were the "armed wing" of Otelo's party.

Under Portuguese criminal law, a conviction for membership of a "terrorist association" does not require any evidence of the accused's involvement in a particular crime.

After years of trials and re-trials marked by procedural flaws and rivalries within the Portuguese judiciary, Otelo and his co-defendants were provisionally set free in 1989.

By adopting the amnesty law, the Socialist-Communist majority of Parliament fulfilled what was seen as the "last wish" of retiring President Mario Soares. Under the amnesty, only bloody deeds committed by certain members of FP-25 will continue to be punishable.

For the FUP-defendants concerned, their formal rehabilitation comes late. Many of them were detained on remand for years accused of crimes they had never committed.

 

Sources: C.E.D.R.I, Beatriz Robin-Graf; Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 15.3.96. See also FECL No.10: "The everlasting trial for a national hero"