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Portugal court rejects request to free ex-PM in graft probe

Portugal’s top court on Wednesday refused to release ex-premier Jose Socrates, held in preventive custody on corruption allegations, saying his request was “without legal foundation”.

Socrates has been held in detention since he was arrested at Lisbon airport on November 21 on suspicion of tax evasion, corruption and money laundering in a case that has sent shockwaves through the country.

Keeping the former prime minister in provisional detention does not “constitute a disproportionate infringement of his individual liberty,” the Supreme Court said according to Portuguese media reports.

It added that the decision to keep Socrates in prison was justified to avoid the 57-year-old fleeing or interfering with the investigation.

The emblematic former Socialist leader, who was premier from 2005 to 2011, has dismissed the accusations against him as “absurd” and called his detention “a gratuitous humiliation”.

He is the first such high level official to be arrested in Portugal since the end of military dictatorship in 1974.

Investigators have been looking into transfers involving Socrates’ bank account compared with earnings he has reported to tax authorities.

Under provisional detention, suspects accused in cases of “extreme complexity” can be held for up to a year although the investigating magistrate must re-examine the situation every three months.