Convicted members of an elite Portuguese paedophile ring will find out tomorrow if Strasbourg judges accept that they were victims of human rights breaches.
The European Court of Human Rights will deliver its judgement on Tuesday 26 June, in the case Pereira Cruz and Others v. Portugal (nos. 56396/12, 57186/13, 52757/13, and 68115/13).
The applicants, Carlos Pereira Cruz, João Alberto Ferreira Diniz, Jorge Marques Leitão Ritto and Manuel José Abrantes are Portuguese nationals who were born in 1942, 1954, 1936 and 1954 and live in Alcabideche, Lisbon, Cascais and Massamá (Portugal) respectively.
The case concerns a paedophile ring in the Casa Pia, a public institution responsible for the education of children from deprived backgrounds.
At the relevant time Pereira Cruz was a television producer and one of the most popular presenters in Portugal; João Alberto Ferreira Diniz was a doctor in Lisbon; Jorge Marques
Leitão Ritto was a retired Portuguese ambassador and Manuel José Abrantes was chairman of the institution Casa Pia in Lisbon1 (“the Casa Pia”) after having been deputy chairman for five years.
In 2002 the Expresso, a Portuguese national weekly, denounced the existence of a paedophile ring in the Casa Pia. Following a number of press articles, a criminal investigation was instituted against 10 people, including the applicants and CS, the Casa Pia’s chauffeur and linchpin of the ring.
The investigation was very thorough. It consisted of forensic medical examinations, psychological tests and taking evidence from the victims, co-defendants and 600 witnesses.
The trial began in the Lisbon Court on 25 November 2004. The applicants submitted that the case against them had been collectively fabricated. Following oral submissions in 2009, the court amended a number of the charges. The amendments concerned the place or date of the alleged offences.
On 3 September 2010 the court gave judgment, dismissing the allegation of fabrication.
The applicants were all given prison sentences ranging from approximately 5 to 7 years.
The Lisbon Court of Appeal upheld the judgment.
On 23 February 2012 the Lisbon Court of Appeal remitted part of the case – concerning the offences allegedly committed by Pereira Cruz in the town of Elvas – to the Lisbon Court, on account of charges against him being amended without his being able to make submissions in that regard.
The applicants unsuccessfully lodged various appeals on grounds of unconstitutionality with the Constitutional Court.
On 24 April 2014 the Lisbon Court of Appeal gave judgment in respect of the part of the case concerning the offences allegedly committed in Elvas.
The applicants, after having started serving their sentences, have either been released on licence or are under house arrest on health grounds.
Relying on Articles 6 §§ 1 and 3 (right to a fair trial/right to examine witnesses), the applicants complain that the domestic courts denied them their right to a fair trial.
They also complain that the length of the proceedings was excessive.