This Europe: Portugal's torture chamber to be turned into des res

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The Independent Online

Tucked away off Lisbon's renovated Chiado shopping district lies a crumbling four-storey building with stunning views of the Tagus river.

The city council plans to turn it into luxury flats. But horrified locals recall that during Portugal's 41-year dictatorship – before the 1974 "Carnation" revolution – it was the HQ of the feared Pide secret police, where thousands of dissidents were tortured and killed.

Converting that sinister place into smart flats is an insult to those who suffered and died, say survivors. "I was barbarously beaten here on two occasions, in 1949 and 1962," said Antonio Dias Lourenco, 87, a Communist. He was taken to the notorious third floor, beaten, then racked with electric shocks to make him reveal names.

Shaking his fist, Dias Lourenco said angrily: "The project is a mistake. The building should be restored as a museum of resistance and monument to Portugal's struggle for freedom."

Elderly neighbours remember the silences and screams of those years. Dona Edite, a concierge for 40 years, said: "A woman who lived at the back told me she saw two people fall from a window. In those days it was best not to see too much."

Iva Delgado, whose husband was killed by Pide in 1965, said Brazil's ambassador lived nearby. "When the ambassador's wife complained about screams coming from the building, the police told her it was the screech of the 28 tram," she said.

The 28 still clanks down the hill of this elegant quarter, whose 18th-century buildings are being spruced up in an ambitious modernisation plan. Another local said: "The building's falling down. I just want to see something done with it."

Mr Dias's complaints cut no ice with the Culture Ministry or with the property developer who pooh-poohs the suggestion that people might feel uneasy living there. "It's history," a spokeswoman said. "Time passes."