Lt. Col. Otelo Saraiva de Carvalho, a hero of the 1974 "Revolution of Carnations" that ended 48 years of dictatorship in Portugal, has been charged with "founding, leading and promoting" a left-wing terrorist organization, according to his lawyer.
Defense attorney Romeu Frances said the 47-year-old soldier- politician was indicted Monday with 77 other suspects on charges of belonging to the Popular Forces of April 25 (FP25), a shadowy urban guerrilla group named after the date of the almost bloodless coup that Saraiva de Carvalho masterminded 10 years ago.
Saraiva de Carvalho has been jailed since June, when he was detained with 49 others in a country-wide police sweep against suspected terrorists, the biggest security crackdown in Portugal since the return of democracy. Police are still seeking the other 28 accused.
The pressing of formal charges ended four months of prosecution investigations into the FP25 organization, resulting in 50 volumes of evidence and a 20-page indictment, Frances said. Defense lawyers have until March to prepare arguments before the case goes to trial.
Saraiva de Carvalho, who at the height of his powers in 1975 once threatened to round up counterrevolutionaries in Lisbon's bullring and warned the U.S. ambassador at the time, Frank Carlucci, that he could not be responsible for his safety, faces five to 15 years' imprisonment if convicted.
National figures have rallied to his defense as the leading symbol of a revolution that overturned an oppressive dictatorship without bloodshed. "I simply cannot accept that Otelo could be involved in terrorist violence," said Lt. Col. Vitor Alves, a former comrade in the 1974 coup and now a special adviser to President Antonio Ramalho Eanes.
For the mass of people, the gruff, cheerful figure of Saraiva de Carvalho still symbolizes the euphoria of 1974 and its newly won freedoms.
Politically, Saraiva de Carvalho's career reflects the dashing of the leftist ambitions for Portugal that fired many of the "angry young captains" who seized power in 1974. The power struggle between revolutionary radicals and moderates reached a climax in a failed left-wing coup in November 1975, reportedly led by Saraiva de Carvalho.
A wider strategic battle was taking place behind the street maneuvers, with Socialist Party leader Mario Soares, now prime minister, using U.S. aid to hold off a push for power by factions ultimately dominated by the staunchly pro-Soviet Communist Party.
Since that fall from grace, Saraiva de Carvalho has moved to the edge of the political arena, founding and leading several of the small revolutionary groups that proliferated on the Portuguese left. He campaigned as a leftist candidate in presidential elections in 1976, finishing second, and ran again in 1980.
Later that year Saraiva de Carvalho formed the United People's Front, the tiny party that police raided in June, claiming it was intimately linked to the FP25 terrorist organization.
Saraiva de Carvalho has implied several times that he condemns terrorism while admitting that he is not opposed to "violence of the masses" in the final stages of a socialist revolution.
"Otelo has always accepted the rules of the democratic game," his defense lawyer said. "He has made it clear that the United People's Front would only resort to violence if Portugal were threatened by a fascist coup."
That contrasts sharply with the charges against him of leading a terrorist group that has jolted Portugal with bomb attacks, shootings and bank robberies since 1979.
Defense attorney Frances quoted Saraiva de Carvalho as saying the charges against him resulted from a mistaken link between FP25 and the United People's Front. The prosecution evidence, Frances added, was entirely circumstantial, relating only to Saraiva de Carvalho's participation in the front's meetings without linking him to any terrorist attacks.
"The Otelo I knew was not capable of supporting terrorism," said a prominent military officer and former associate of Saraiva de Carvalho's who asked not to be named. "Now it is for the justice system to decide if political frustrations turned him sour."