Radio firebrand seeks PP bigwigs' support in Madrid mayor slander case
Broadcaster claimed politician "didn't care" about 2004 train bombing deaths12 February 2008
MADRID - On May 28, firebrand radio talk show host Federico Jiménez Losantos will appear in court charged with slandering Madrid Mayor Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón in a case that is likely to strain allegiances within the top ranks of the conservative Popular Party.
Losantos, who repeatedly insulted Gallardón on his talk show in spring 2006, has called several key officials to his defence, among them PP Secretary General Ángel Acebes, Congress spokesman Eduardo Zaplana and the premier of the Madrid region Esperanza Aguirre, all of whom are known to have little sympathy for Gallardón's moderate brand of conservatism.
However, it remains to be seen whether they will turn on one of their own in order to defend the broadcaster Losantos, with whom many undoubtedly share greater ideological affinity.
Gallardón presented the lawsuit against Losantos in June 2006 after hearing the host of a popular talk show on the Church-backed Cope station accuse him of not caring about the victims of the Madrid train bombings on 11 March 2004.
"You don't care that there were 200 dead, 1,500 injured and a brutal coup to throw your party out of government," Losantos said in comments directed at the mayor. "You don't care because you want power."
Losantos made the accusations after Gallardón suggested that fellow party members cease questioning the investigation into the Madrid train bombings. At that time, Acebes, Zaplana and others were still intent on fuelling the theory that Basque terrorist group ETA was involved in the attack, even though all evidence pointed to Islamist extremists. The radio host appeared to insinuate that the mayor was more worried about appealing to voters ahead of local elections in early 2007 than pushing for further inquiries into the attacks.
"The mayor doesn't want to know who kills 200 people in his own city," Losantos declared.
The reiterated and highly offensive nature of the accusations led Gallardón to file the lawsuit on grounds that they constituted an attack on his dignity. Prosecutors are demanding a fine of EUR 72,000.
In his defence, Losantos has turned not only to the PP's top brass, many of whom have defended him in public in the past, but also to several regular contributors to his talk show, including the president of the Association of Victims of Terrorism, Francisco José Alcaraz, and the editors of newspapers El Mundo and La Razon, Pedro J. Ramirez and José Alejandro Vara, respectively.
Gallardón has said that if he wins the case he will donate the money he receives in compensation to Alcaraz's organisation.
[Copyright EL PAÍS / J. A. HERNÁNDEZ / ANGELES ESPINOSA 2008]
Subject: Spanish news