Kate McCann's lawyer Carlos Pinto de Abreu: ''If you were Portuguese this would be enough to put you in prison.''

16 Jan 2010

Grenville Green: McCann's Libel Trial in Lisbon

from Tony Bennett, Secretary, The Madeleine Foundation


Here’s some brief notes about Grenville Green’s 6 days in Portugal (11 to 16 January), based on what he told me on a 2-hour journey tonight from Gatwick Airport to Cambridgeshire, where tonight he’s reunited with his wife again. I’m sure he’ll have more to say in due course.

So far as he’s concerned, it was very much ‘mission accomplished’. He was able to demonstrate by his physical presence in Lisbon British support for Goncalo Amaral, he was in the court-room for the best part of all three days, he met up with some of Amaral’s supporters including of course the tireless Joana Morais, he was interviewed by British TV journalists and appeared on SKY and BBC News with his comments on free speech, and he made it to the fund-raising dinner in Lisbon for Amaral.

On the court case, as the proceedings were entirely in Portuguese, he could not follow the content, but instead chose to focus on the body-language of those in the court room.

Most noticeable, he said, was the strange body language of Dr Gerald McCann. Most of the time, he stared resolutely and fixedly ahead, at no-one in particular. His translator would whisper the English translation of what was being said to him and as the first day wore on he was showing more and more irritation at what was being said. This was evident from his shifting around on his bottom, rubbing and scratching his head and ear, mostly with is left arm, immediately after each segment of translation was whispered to him.

Grenville, who had not seen Dr Gerald McCann’s performance outside the court on day two, said that his impatience and annoyance seemed to reach a peak during that morning.

Dr Kate McCann sat next to her husband, also relatively impassive. Occasionally they would whisper to each other.

The lady judge was described by Grenville as ‘young and very attractive’. He said: “She seemed to be far too young to be a judge on such an important and complex matter”. He said she intervened relatively rarely in the proceedings. He was told by one of the Portuguese that she was not selected specially for this trial; according to the person he spoke to, there was a strict rota for judicial appointments for trials and she was selected only on that basis. He also learnt that she was the daughter of one of Portugal’s most senior prosecutors.

There were two to three dozen people sitting on the public benches on the first day; rather fewer on days two and three. Many of those he saw on day one were also at the dinner for Amaral.

As Amaral entered the court, Grenville shouted: “Good luck from England, Goncalo Amaral”. This led to a couple of British journalists taking an interest in him and interviewing him.

He also met Joana Morais who was very friendly to him. She spent time in the court surrounded by what appeared to be translators and supporters of Goncalo Amaral. Once inside the court, he was introduced to Amaral; the two men shook hands and Grenville gave him a Grenville-style bear hug.

The evidence of the police officers, Moite Flores and the publishers of the book all came across authoritatively and seemed to cause Dr Gerald McCann to squirm, wriggle and twitch as some of the proceedings were translated to him.

Grenville got tickets for the fund-raising event on day one from his hotel. As the event at the Marraparque (not sure if I’ve spelt that right) was some distance away from where he was staying, he had to get a taxi there. He booked a return taxi and wished he hadn’t as he and Stephen enjoyed the dinner so much he didn’t want to leave. There were 60-70 guests there.

During the main address by one of Amaral’s supporters, Grenville heard his name mentioned. This was followed by a round of enthusiastic applause from those present. A little later on there was a reference to the work of the Madeleine Foundation.

During the dinner Grenville asked if one of the Portuguese people would pass a gift from him to Amaral. The gift was of a fridge magnet showing a 1939 to 1945 war poster. The poster showed a child digging in the garden and his mother planting a seed against the slogan: ‘Dig for Victory’. When Grenville began to explain the link between the poster and Goncalo Amaral’s work, the Portuguese chap said: “Come and explain to Mr Amaral himself, I’ll translate for you”.

Grenville went over and explained that whilst the British child was digging to plant seeds, he had been digging for the truth. Grenville told him that he’d also bought one for his own fridge at home and said that every time he looked at it he would think of Mr Amaral. When Grenville had to go when his taxi arrived, he and Stephen tried to slip away quietly but were spotted by Mr Amaral who came over to shake hands and thank him warmly for coming. He also said through a translator: “I hope you can come to Portugal again; I want to tell you that if you do you will be made very welcome.

At the dinner Stephen was very well received, many people chatting to him. Grenville had a long chat to Duarte Levy. He also bought Amaral’s new book: ‘The English Gag’ which he hopes to get a Portuguese person to translate for him. Joana Morais was unable to attend the dinner as she needed to upload material for her blog about the trial. She told Grenville that keeping up the blog was almost a full-time job and at busy times meant working until the early hours of the morning.

That’s about it, I’m sure Grenville will add a few more tales when he has a moment.

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