Rajoy in-person testimony in PP graft trial set for July

Court says Rajoy must testify in person in Gürtel corruption trial. Photo: David Plas/European Peoples Party via Wikimedia

• Spain’s High Court dismisses request that Spanish PM testify via video linkup
• Rajoy to testify over alleged illegal financing of PP while serving as party leader

In a 2-3 vote on Monday, judges of Spain’s central High Court ruled against an appeal by lawyers and ordered Spanish President Mariano Rajoy of the conservative governing Partido Popular (PP) to appear in court on 26th July to give in-person testimony as a witness in the Gürtel corruption case. The high-profile case allegedly involves kickbacks totaling more than 350 million euros over a period of several years to PP politicians and government officials — including while Rajoy served as secretary-general of the party from 2003-2004.

In their ruling, the Audiencia Nacional judges knocked back a request by Rajoy’s attorneys that he not be forced to sit in court but rather be allowed to give his testimony via a live video-conference link. The judges said because Rajoy would be appearing as a private citizen that no exception should be made with regard to his position as Spanish president and also noted that the court would ensure that adequate security measures were in place to ensure Rajoy’s safety and protect his institutional image as head of government.

The in-person courtroom testimony by a sitting president will be a first for Spain. The vast Gürtel corruption case involves alleged kickbacks to PP officials in exchange for public works contracts in six of Spain’s 17 autonomous regions, with nearly 200 suspects under investigation in four separate trials. Earlier this year, principal suspect Francisco Correa and two others were jailed for 13 years by the Valencia regional High Court for their roles in the case.

Rajoy will testify in court in Madrid’s San Fernando de Henares district in a trial involving 37 defendants, including two former PP party treasurers and the PP itself, over alleged acceptance of bribes for personal benefit and to illegally finance PP political campaigns and activities. One of the chief defendants, former PP treasurer Luis Bárcenas, has alleged that while Rajoy served as the PP leader in 2003-04 officials at the highest level of the party were fully aware of the kickbacks scheme.

► Read More in Spanish at El País and El Mundo …

► Read More in English at El País and AP via Washington Post …