The Supreme Court of Justice this afternoon announced its rejection of the application by José Sócrates’ lawyers to have their client released.
The court disagreed with the habeas corpus pleas put forward by the lawyers João Araújo and Pedro Delille, so the former Prime Minister will remain in Evora jail until he formally is charged.
The judges' detailed decision will not be made public but the original reasons used to hold Sócrates remain sufficient to keep him in jail.
The former Prime Minister was arrested at Lisbon airport last November and has been held in relation to the ongoing Operation Marquês looking into corruption, tax fraud and money laundering.
The defense argued that judge Carlos Alexandre had not reviewed the coercion measures used to detain Sócrates at the three months point as stipulated by law, so the continued detention of their client was no longer lawful and that Sócates was being held illegally.
In a 2007 judgement, the Supreme Court decided that the three months limit was for guidance only and this decision was used again in the current Sócrates’ case
Sócrates’ lawyers tried also to argue that some of the alleged crimes were at a time when their client was the Prime Minister so he should not have had his phones tapped unless authorised by a higher authority than was used, also that the case therefore should only be heard by the Supreme Court.
These increasingly desperate assertions were not sufficient to persuade the judges that Sócrates should be allowed home.
It seems also that lawyers João Araújo and Pedro Delille may have been using the wrong legal means to try and have their client released as according to the Supreme Court, habeas corpus* "is not the appropriate means to challenge the procedural decisions or to plead procedural irregularities.”
* Habeas corpus
Habeas corpus is a recourse in law that may be applied before a court in cases where the unlawful detention or imprisonment of a person is suspected.
A writ of habeas corpus, also known as the great writ, is a summons with the force of a court order; it is addressed to the custodian (a prison official, for example) and demands that a prisoner be taken before the court, and that the custodian present proof of authority, allowing the court to determine whether the custodian has lawful authority to detain the prisoner.
If the custodian is acting beyond his or her authority, then the prisoner must be released. Any prisoner, or another person acting on his or her behalf, may petition the court, or a judge, for a writ of habeas corpus.
One reason for the writ to be sought by a person other than the prisoner is that the detainee might be held incommunicado.
Most civil law jurisdictions provide a similar remedy for those unlawfully detained, but this is not always called habeas corpus.
For example, in some Spanish-speaking nations, the equivalent remedy for unlawful imprisonment is the amparo de libertad ('protection of freedom').