Former socialist prime minister, José Sócrates, indicted for crimes of abuse of power, corruption and money laundering, has demanded the removal of judge Carlos Alexandre who is due to preside over the court proceedings resulting from Operation Marques.
At issue is a SIC interview in which the judge made comments far outside his professional remit. Sócrates’ lawyers already have applied to the Court of Appeal in Lisbon to have judge Alexandre removed from the case.
Sócrates (pictured above) said he had been targeted by some of the judge’s remarks and hence has “instructed my lawyers to present their respective complaints to the competent judicial bodies," referring to Carlos Alexandre's comments as "clumsy and cowardly innuendo."
The opinion article was published last Saturday and the request for the judge's removal from the case was received on Wednesday. Until the application is ruled on, the judge is not allowed to make any decisions relating to Operation Marques that already has seen the former PM spend 41 weeks behind bars while protesting his innocence.
Carlos Alexandre also is being assessed by the Superior Council of Magistrates, the disciplinary body for judges, about the SIC interview and if he is suspended or removed from the case, it will be taken over by judge Ivo Rosa.
The so-called ‘super judge, Carlos Alexandre did not refer directly to Sócrates in his interview but clearly was referring to him when commenting that he was not rich, did not have "lavish friends" and did not have "money in accounts held by friends" - a clear reference to the route by which Sócrates is alleged to have supported his millionaire lifestyle.
Judges are not allowed to comment on case that they are to judge but are allowed to speak about their private lives. Carlos Alexandre has a supporter in the president of the Trade Union Association of Portuguese Judges, Manuela Paupério, who said he did not see that Carlos Alexandre had breached any rules or guidelines.
It would be hugely inconvenient for Alexandre to be taken off this case as inevitably the formal charges against Sócrates would be delayed further, already a cause for concern, rumour and suspicion that somehow the socialist government wants to look after its own and is conspiring to keep Sócrates away from court and all suspicion magically removed.
Operation Marques so far included more than 30,000 documents, five million computer file and 13 defendants, including Sócrates.
Perhaps of more concern were judge Alexandre’s comments about his sobriquet, saying he was not a super-judge at all as he doesn’t do super-judge things like publish books and go to conferences nor does he have a post-graduate degree.
Media has been perhaps too swift to promote these self-deprecating comments as a prelude to Alexandre withdrawing from the case, or being removed on flimsy grounds.
The 'exceptionally complex' investigations have been extended to the beginning of 2017 and if the former prime minister is not charged then, accusations that the case against him is 'not substantial' will increase in volume.