Spanish PM called to testify in corruption trial

Opposition parties in Spain reacted to Tuesday’s news that Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is cited to appear as a witness in the ongoing Gurtel corruption trial in which his ruling People’s Party (PP) is deeply implicated.

Magistrates from Spain’s High Court decided Rajoy should testify as a witness, albeit through video conference from his office, in the trial about events over the period 1999 to 2005 when he was PP General Secretary and Luis Barcenas, one of the accused, was the party treasurer.

Barcenas is accused of running a slush fund from money gained from bribes given in return for the award of public work contracts and of using that money to finance election campaigns, as well as siphoning millions into personal Swiss bank accounts.

The magistrates hearing the trial concluded that given his role in the PP at the time, Rajoy should have been aware of Barcenas’ activities.

The Spanish media cites “executive sources” as saying Rajoy respected the decision and was willing to cooperate with the justice system, while the opposition also gave its view of events.

Pedro Saura, a spokesperson for the Socialist Party (PSOE), commented that it was “normal and obvious” for Rajoy to be called as a witness, given that he had run several election campaigns in his role as General Secretary.

“We should not forget that the illegal financing of the PP and the ‘B-box’ (slush fund) is an issue which is still pending for Spanish democracy and Mr. Rajoy has to give explanations both in court and also in Congress…The PSOE is going to demand he does that,” said Saura.

Former PSOE leader Pedro Sanchez took to Twitter to ask: “Mariano Rajoy, when will you be held politically responsible?”

The left-wing Podemos party, who are in the middle of a campaign to highlight the number of corruption cases involving the PP, described the fact that Rajoy would speak as a witness as “a national disgrace,” with Inigo Errejon tweeting: “saying, ‘I don’t know’ is no good anymore as an excuse.”

Meanwhile, Ramon Espinar, General Secretary of Podemos for Madrid said, “leaders like this are a humiliation for the Spanish people.”

Finally, the spokesperson for center-right formation Cuidadanos, whose support in October 2016’s investiture debate allowed Rajoy to return as prime minister, also sounded out a warning.

Ines Arrimadas said she was not surprised “with all the corruption cases the PP has,” that Rajoy had been called to testify. She warned that if the prime minister were to subsequently face charges himself, her party would demand his resignation.

 

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