Trial of Suspected Terrorists Opens, Adjourns
LISBON, Portugal (AP) _ The military mastermind of a coup that freed Portugal from half a century of dictatorship and 72 co-defendants went on trial Monday, accused of belonging to a left-wing terrorist organization.
But after a brief session, Judge Adelino Salvado adjourned the trial until Oct. 7 because of the absence of one defendant who had agreed to testify for the prosecution and was shot and critically wounded near his home Friday night.
The key defendant, former army Lt. Otelo Saraiva de Cravalho, appeared smiling in the dock of a fortified courthouse built inside Lisbon’s Monsanto Prison, where most of the suspects are being held.
Saraiva de Cravalho, hero of the April 25, 1974, coup against the right- wing dictatorship, and some 50 other defendants in the court raised their fists in a revolutionary salute as the trial begin. It is the largest trial in Portugal’s history and is expected to be the longest and most expensive.
The state’s star witness, Jose Rosa Barradas, was shot seven times Friday by gunmen, and anonymous callers said the attack was carried out by members of the April 25 Popular Forces, known as the FP-25. Rosa Barradas, one of five defendants who have cooperated with authorities, remained in critical condition at a Lisbon hospital.
All of the defendants are accused of belonging to FP-25 and of plotting ″the violent transformation of society.″ Saraiva de Carvalho is also accused of leading the group.
In declaring the adjournment, the judged cited the ″terrifying″ circumstances that led to the absence of Rosa Barradas and also the difficulty in selecting an eight-member jury. Only 27 of 50 summoned jury candidates appeared at the hearing.
The trial is set to reopen the day after general elections are held. The early elections were called because of the recent collapse of the Socialist- Social Democrat coalition.
FP-25 is blamed for at least six murders, a mortar shelling of the U.S. Embassy, a series of bombings and scores of stickups, including Portugal’s biggest robbery, the $650,000 heist of an armored car.
Saraiva de Carvalho, one of the most powerful men in the country in the months following the coup, held a hand-written note against the bullet-proof screen in front of him that said, ″The trial is a farce. The finale will show that we the accused are in fact the accusers.″
The judge temporarily expelled him from the courtroom along with demonstrators in the room who began shouting, ″Otelo 3/8 Otelo 3/8″
Earlier Monday, the prosecutor asked for special protection for four of the accused who he said were at serious risk of being physically harmed.
The judge ordered the four, who are expected to be prosecution witnesses, separated from the other defendants.
Court officials said the trial will involve more than 500 witnesses, 45 defense lawyers, and 100 volumes of evidence. The courthouse was built inside the prison complex at a cost of $570,000.
Saraiva de Carvalho was arrested 13 months ago after a nationwide police sweep, code-named ″Operation Orion,″ netted more than 40 terrorist suspects.
Authorities said documents seized during the operation indicated Saraiva de Carvalho was using his small leftist party as a front for FP-25.
Defense lawyers said Monday they would seek an annulment of the trial on grounds that the presiding judge also oversaw the process that led to the indictments.