Portugal's interior minister steps down after fatal car accident

Eduardo Cabrita faced a series of scandals after joining party Cabinet in 2015

Portugal's Interior Minister Eduardo Cabrita announced his resignation after a series of gaffes and missteps. AP

Portugal's Interior Minister Eduardo Cabrita stepped down on Friday nearly five months after his driver was involved in a car crash that killed a road worker while the government official was in the back seat.

Mr Cabrita, who joined Prime Minister Antonio Costa's Cabinet in 2015 when the Socialist party came to power, had been urged to resign since the fatal accident.

He repeatedly refused to do so, but on Friday, public prosecutors formally accused his driver of negligent homicide, saying that he was driving above the speed limit when he ran over the 43-year-old worker, who was a father of two.

“More than anyone else, I regret this tragic, irreparable loss,” Mr Cabrita said in resignation speech. Earlier on Friday, he told reporters he was “just a passenger” in the car involved in the crash.

Mr Cabrita steps down as Portugal prepares for a snap election next month called by the country's president after the government failed to gain parliamentary approval to pass its state budget bill.

During his time as head of the Ministry of Internal Administration, which oversees firefighters, police and the border services, Mr Cabrita faced a series of scandals, including when a Ukrainian man was beaten to death by officers while in custody at Lisbon airport.

In another misstep, Mr Cabrita's ministry in 2019 gave protective bandannas to the country's firefighters that proved to be flammable. He became interior minister after bushfires in central Portugal killed more than 100 people.

“I assumed this role in a particularly difficult context for the country, in a real situation of national trauma,” he said on Friday.

“Since then I have worked intensively to ensure Portugal is a safe country.”

Shortly after Mr Cabrita stepped down, Mr Costa told reporters he accepted the minister's resignation and had communicated it to the president. He also thanked Mr Cabrita for his work.

Updated: December 3rd 2021, 10:13 PM