Lisbon stayed at home today as a man bolted himself into the Portuguese State Television building, claiming to have enough explosives to blow the building up and destroy the city to within a 1-kilometre radius. Manuel Subtil entered the building around 7.30, brandishing a gun, and locked himself into the toilets on the ground floor of the RTP building with his wife, her daughter by a previous marriage and their young daughter. Seconds later, he could be heard screaming in a voice broken with tears “I want justice!Oh!Jesus!Oh!Our Lady!By the soul of my mother, I want justice! I just want to die!” By the tone of his voice, one could immediately conclude that he was drunk or mad. He claimed that a report by RTP had ruined him ten years previously and that he had taken the case to court, had won the first case but then RTP had appealed and that the case had been “put on the shelf”. He demanded an indemnity of 500,000 USD (equivalent) Manuel Subtil had stated that at 15.30 he would allow his family to leave and that at 16.00 he would make his “explosive devices” explode. For the rest of the day, most of Lisbon was stopped, glued to the television screens as RTP 1 blocked all programming to send live images of the “great siege”. A video image was shown of Manuel Subtil entering the building with a metallic briefcase and holding a pistol in his hand. Shortly afterwards, he locked himself in the bathroom. What really panicked Lisbon was the idea that any explosion would destroy the city within a one kilometre radius. The RTP building is in the city centre, the financial nerve-centre of Lisbon, the area where the main banks, insurance companies and government ministries are situated, along with a large number of private residences of public figures. Work stopped as companies’ doors opened and workers took advantage of another day at home to help cure the hangover of the New Year. If anyone had stopped for a moment to think about how much high-grade explosive would be necessary to explode a 1-km. radius of a city, especially when contained on the ground floor bathroom of a huge building like the RTP centre, this story would never have hit the international headlines. Nuclear terrorism is not yet an issue. After research, one finds that indeed his claim is true, that he won the first case against RTP and that the court had awarded him damages, but these were never paid because the case was sent to the court of appeal…in 1993. Since then, the wheel of justice stopped turning. It also appears that in fact this gentleman has a number of businesses in the name of family members and that this was the third time he had performed such an act. This story only made the international news because the RTP building was under siege for most of the day. However, in Portugal, it strikes a chord close to the hearts of most Portuguese because indeed the justice system is not seen to work here, to say the least. When people without influence are caught, the penal system is implacable. When anyone with connections is accused of crimes involving millions of USD, or when a child dies in a public swimming pool through lack of conditions, or when a pedestrian presses a button on a traffic light to cross the road and is electrocuted, the huge wheel of bureaucracy starts to turn and nothing happens. Public figures escape without punishment, the man on the street has no justice. This is the chord that Manuel Subtil (meaning “Subtle”) struck and this is why he was applauded as he left the RTP building by the thousands of people who had gathered. In a way, he won his cause, if not his case, because once again, it becomes apparent that in Portugal, the justice system is a land for missionaries, since evidently men of law do not work there. It was not for this reason, however, that the case hit the international fan. Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey, Pravda.Ru, Lisbon
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