Interview with Gonçalo Amaral
Alexandra Ferreira - Nova Gente - 15.05.2015
Traduit par Astro
“My life is gone, I’m only alive due to my heart”. Condemned to pay 500 thousand euro to the parents of Maddie, the little English three-year-old girl that disappeared in Praia da Luz, in the Algarve, on the 3rd of May of 2007, the former inspector will fight until the last legal instance, because he is “a free man and citizen” with “the right to express opinions”.
What was your reaction when you found out that the verdict from the court was unfavourable to you in the defamation suit that the McCanns filed against you?
I found out about the verdict through a friend who called me telling me about the news on the radio. I immediately called my lawyer, but he hadn’t been notified and the verdict was not in the process. It’s sad, but my lawyer could only access the sentence, that afternoon, because a British journalist sent it to him by e-mail. There is no doubt that the couple’s lawyer has good connections at the court. My reaction was one of calm and a wish to read the full contents of the verdict as soon as it was available on the Citius website, which only happened the next day, but with the date of the previous day. Mysteries which the webs of justice weave.
Were you surprised?
I wasn’t surprised, it was one of the open possibilities, but after the decision about the matter of fact, which was favourable to me, I trusted that the verdict would come in the same direction.
Do you think there are errors in the process? Do you feel wronged?
Those are not mistakes, but value judgements and understandings that are contrary to mine and to that of many other jurists. As for feeling wronged… What do you think? I can only ask if those who, for more than five nights, left their three children, aged three and two, to their own devices in a house within an unknown space, subjecting them to a thousand dangers,
Don’t you feel revolted by this verdict?
I don’t feel revolt, but I do not conform to it, I still trust our country’s justice system, for which I have worked for over 25 years, and I still am a free citizen with all my rights. On the other hand, even the question that Maddie’s siblings, then aged two, may someday read my book and become traumatized doesn’t concern me. Those two children were also abandoned for over five nights in a row and surely they will understand that what is written there is the result of a criminal investigation.
There is a question that those two children will certainly ask when they grow up but that question will be directed at the parents: why were they abandoned, left to their own devices? Those children are free to think and to conclude that whatever happened to their daughter could have happened to one of them. The parents can only fear that their two children who did not disappear on that tragic night revolt against them.
The court says that you caused Maddie’s parents and siblings moral damages…
In my understanding, there are no damages that, objectively and factually, may have resulted from my writing. Which is to say, there is no causal nexus between the book or the documentary and any damages. On the other hand, what is spoken about, like the feelings of rage, it can hardly be considered a damage.
The couple demanded one million two hundred thousand euro. The court has sentenced you to pay 500 thousand euro – including interest since 2010 – over damages that were caused by the publication of the book Maddie: A Verdade da Mentira. Aren’t both the request and the damages awarded by the court exaggerated?
There is no defamation crime, I haven’t been tried over any crime, if at all I am being tried over an offence of opinion, something unthinkable 40 years after the revolution of April of 1974, which ended the [fascist] Estado Novo, censorship and all the means that oppressed Portuguese citizens from thinking, speaking and writing freely. On the other hand, what is in the book is in the process, those are not lies, that can be verified by comparing the case files with the book and this court has not put that truth at stake. Nonetheless, a compensation of that amount only clarifies that the McCann couple is worth more than any Portuguese citizen, dead or alive, and that they are above any god or divinity, which, according to politicians, Portuguese intellectuals and others from the so-called democratic world can be criticized, ridiculed and satirized. Look at the discussions about the terrorist attacks against French newspaper Charlie Hebdo… With my book I did not defame, nor did I have the intention to defame anyone, but merely to report what happened during the first five months of the investigation, thus replying to the attacks against my good name and my professional dignity. There is no, no can there be any, reserve duty that superimposes our right to react and to defend ourselves from defamation and injustice, putting the truth back when our fundamental rights are violated, even when the authors of such attacks are subjects of a powerful country, to which Portugal has always bowed, with a short interregnum when the Portuguese Republic was founded, largely a result of the English ultimatum.
Apart from the payment, the court decreed the prohibition of the sale of new editions of the book Maddie: A Verdade da Mentira. Nevertheless, the Appellate Court had decided to annul this prohibition back in 2010…
This court has not undone what had been decided by Lisbon’s Appellate Court within the injunction that was filed by the complainants. It should be clarified that the only decision that has, so far, become effective is that of Lisbon’s Appellate Court. That is the only one that is in force, the rest is still subject to appeal and it will take a few years to come into force, while I hope that our superior courts will see this differently from the lower court. This is just the judicial system working, therefore we need to remain calm.
In a more practical manner, I can say that the claimants, the McCanns, haven’t won anything yet, they only lost, namely with the decision from Lisbon’s Appellate Court, which is very clear in stating that the rights that have been violated were mine, that I, within the exercise of freedom of speech, could write the book and practiced no illicit action.
With this prohibition, are you forbidden from emitting an opinion about the case or about the McCann couple?
I am a free man, and like any other citizen in this country, I have the right to express my opinions. I was a Criminal Investigation coordinator, a policeman, and there is no reserve duty, a functional or merely instrumental thing, from the exercise of a profession, that superimposes a fundamental right and freedom of expression. To state that the duty of reserve limits freedom of expression for life, or even during the exercise of the profession of policeman, is to elevate that duty, which is merely administrative, above freedom of expression and fundamental rights, consecrated in the Constitution of the Portuguese Republic, in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and on the European Convention of Human Rights.
When you wrote the book, did it ever occur to you that you could be committing an offence?
I wrote the book because I, those who worked with me and the institution of the Judiciary Police were being put at stake. My good name and professional honour were severely attacked.
Faced with the inertia and the silence from the institution that I belonged to, which, in my opinion, had the duty and the obligation to come out and defend the men and women who, with their work and great sacrifice, tried to protect it by performing an investigation at the level of any minimally developed country, I decided to ask for my retirement, and to report the criminal investigation that had been carried out and the conclusions that were reached up to the moment that I coordinated said investigation. At that time we already knew that the case was going to be shelved and the investigation abruptly ended. Everything was being prepared in that sense with the agreement, at least tacit, from the parents of the missing child, with the case files being delivered to journalists by the Public Ministry, which in itself question the duty of reserve to which, according to some experts, the policemen were subject to.
The book was a way to reply to the humiliation and the offences that I have been targeted with. Deep down, that was it: they say we are incompetent, they say we are a third world police force, drunkards, fat, lazy, etc., etc., and the Judiciary Police does not set out to defend us.
Do you feel abandoned by the intellectuals and the writers of this country?
Is freedom of expression not compromised by this type of verdict?
What is happening to me, since 2009, is an attack against freedom of expression and a trial over an offence of opinion. The intellectuals of this country, in general, have reacted with indifference. I am not part of their group, and to make things worse I’m an ex-policeman, something that is reproved by many.
Are you still dedicated to writing?
I continue to write, but I have yet to decide when to publish. At the moment, I am writing my memoirs about the profession of criminal investigator.
Why are you economically suffocated? Your house in Tavira went to the bank, your consultancy firm had to close, one third of your pension is arrested…
To all of those questions I only reply that my life is gone. If I am alive, it’s due to the heart that I have.
Have you never considered suing the McCanns over the damages that they caused to your family?
Each thing in its own time, it won’t be only the McCanns, but their group of friends, and other people and entities that will be sued. There is an illicit action that was indeed performed, the neglect in guarding their children, which caused direct damages to many people, not only to myself, but for example to the Ocean Club workers, who were fired and saw their lives change, many of them unjustly passing from mere employees and heads of family to suspects in a criminal investigation, while they had nothing to do with the matter.
Is there a project that you would like to realise some day?
I would like to channel all the support that I have been receiving into the creation of an institution to support children and teenagers at risk, in a perspective of educating them for life, escaping the benefits perspective, promoting and building life projects with them, helping them to escape marginalization and the labeling process.
With so many problems, do you still have time to dream?
Dreaming is a part of free men, it costs no money, it can’t be bought, and we just live and feel it.
What remains unexplained in this case?
I don’t answer that question. Faced with what was said by the couple, after the verdict was known, that they felt stronger, I just feel like saying that only vampires become stronger with their victims’ blood. Like Zeca Afonso [Portuguese songwriter and singer] sang, “they eat everything”…
They tried to destoy me
Nova Gente - 22.05.2015
In 2009, the ex-inpector of the "Maddie case" was chosen by PSD to be candidate to the Olhão Municipality. Il pense que He was removed from the race by the McCann couple.
The story has more than six years, but remains well alive in the memory of Gonçalo Amaral, the ex-coordinator of the "Maddie case". After he retired, the PSD wanted to launch him in the political life, appointing him "as candidate to the presidency of the Municipality of Olhão", at the end of 2008. When all indicated him as the strongest candidate to victory, came the announcement of the contrary from Manuela Ferreira Leite. Gonçalo Amaral was received by the then orange [colour linked to PSD] leader who apologised to him about the decision.
"The McCannns allege that they minimised the book and only the showing of the documentary took them to react. It's not true. The book came out and was minimised by the couple, but before the documentary, in January 2009, it came out in the papers that I had been chosen by the PSD as the candidate to the presidency for the Olhão Municipality", says the ex-inspector, underlining:
What happened was that the couple tried always to destroy me, destroy my credibility, and were frightened with the possibility of me to stop being an outsider, a retiree from the police, and being able to be president of Olhão Municipality. They were frightened, they would have thought that a mayor would be a more credible figure than that of a police officer, states Amaral, describing his version of the events at that time. The couple's reaction was quick. In a flash trip, Gerald McCann came to Lisbon, met with his lawyer, Dr Rogério Alves, with a PSD leader, who is said to be Dr José Luís Arnaut, and the couple’s current lawyer, Dr Isabel Duarte. They spoke about me, a Portuguese citizen with the right to elect or be elected in any democratic elections, and they even delivered a report about me, done by their private detectives, hired to look for their daughter. After the meeting, Dr Manuela Ferreita Leite announced that I was no longer candidate, overriding the will of the Olhão militants and that of the Agarvians.
In the sequence of this removal, Gonçalo Amaral asked to be received by Ferreira Leita.
Caption of photo 1:
PSD LEADER REJECTED CANDIDACY
Gonçalo Amaral believes that Manuela Ferreira Leite will have refused his candidacy to the Olhão Municipality by influence of José Luís Arnaut, who, in turn, will have been meeting with Gerry McCann and his lawyers.
Caption photo 2:
DELIVERY OF APPEAL
The ex-inspector of the PJ is going to appeal the sentence that condemned him to pay 500 thousand euros to the McCann couple.