Portuguese defense minister resigns

Source: Xinhua| 2018-10-13 01:39:14|Editor: yan
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LISBON, Oct. 12 (Xinhua) -- Portuguese Defense Minister Azeredo Lopes resigned from the government on Friday, Portuguese Lusa News Agency reported.

Azeredo Lopes presented his resignation to Prime Minister Antonio Costa earlier in the day. And a source in the Defense Ministry's office told Lusa that the resignation had already been accepted by the prime minister.

There have been request of dismissal of Azeredo Lopes recently as the process of a judicial investigation into the theft and recovery of the stolen arms in the arms depot of Tancos, some 130 km northeast of Lisbon in June 2017, is underway.

Azeredo Lopes said in his letter to Costa that he decided to resign from the government to prevent the armed forces from being "worn out by the political attack" and the "accusations" he was being targeted by the government.

"I could not, and I say in a heartfelt way, to let the same Armed Forces be eroded by the political attack on the minister who supervises them," Azeredo Lopes said in the letter, citing by the Lusa News Agency.

The outgoing minister denied that he had any knowledge "direct or indirect" of an operation in which the cover-up was intended to protect the perpetrator of the theft.

Hand grenades, anti-tank rockets, plastic explosives and a large quantity of ammunitions were stolen from the arms depot in Tanco in June 2017. But almost all the stolen weapons, except for nine-millimeter ammunitions, were recovered on an anonymous tip-off in October.

Director General of the Portuguese Military Judiciary Police (MJP) Luis Vieira was arrested on Sept. 25 over the arms depot theft last year, and three members of paramilitary police (GNR) and a civilian were among those detained.

Azeredo Lopes, 57, a university law professor, had been serving as defense minister in the ruling Socialist Party government since it took power in November, 2015.