Presidential hopeful takes up ‘Portuguese Dreyfus’ cause

(JTA) — Maria de Belem, a presidential candidate in Portugal, pledged her support for a legislative initiative to reinstate posthumously an army captain who was persecuted for promoting Judaism.

The initiative to reinstate Arthur Carlos de Barros Basto, who died in 1961, was restarted by the Jewish Community of Porto last week. The community sent on Oct. 27 a letter to members of Portugal’s parliament containing a proposed draft bill which would reinstate Barros Basto to the rank of colonel, with all benefits.

“I support a law along these lines,” de Belem, a former leader of Portugal’s Social Party and a candidate in the presidential election next year, told JTA on Tuesday. “It is an act of justice and as a lawmaker I also supported the reinstatement of Captain Barros Basto into the Portuguese army.”

The Anti-Defamation League also supports “full reinstatement” for Barros Basto, its director of European affairs, Andrew Srulevitch, told JTA.

In 1930s Portugal, where Antonio de Oliveira Salazar’s dictatorship promoted Catholic conservatism and nationalism, Barro Basto made powerful enemies for his efforts to establish a Jewish community made up of descendants of Anusim – Jews who had been forced to renounce their faith to escape religious persecution during the 16th-century Portuguese Inquisition and after.

Wrongfully accused of sexually abusing men he circumcised, in 1937 he was dishonorably discharged from the army, where he had served with distinction.

The Jewish Community of Porto opposes any resolution to the case which falls short of full reinstatement of the kind extended to other victims of persecution in the army under Salazar, it said.

The Porto community has referred to Barros Basto as “the Portuguese Alfred Dreyfus” – a reference to the French army captain whose wrongful conviction for treason served as a catalyst for modern Zionism.


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