29 January 2004
MOSCOW – Spanish Defence Minister Federico Trillo denied allegations Thursday that the country’s chief intelligence agency, which is under his ministry’s control, spies on opposition political parties.
“National Intelligence Centre (CNI) services do not follow around democratic parties in Spain,” Trillo told journalists during an official visit to Russia.
His comment came two days after the chief minister of the regional government of Catalonia resigned following press reports that Spanish intelligence agents had filmed him meeting with members of the Basque terrorist group ETA in France.
Josep Carod-Rovira quit under intense pressure from the national government and leaders of the opposition Socialist Party with which his party, the Catalonian Republican Left Party (ERC), governs Catalonia in a power sharing arrangement.
According to the press reports, Spanish agents filmed Carod-Rovira arriving at and leaving a hotel in the French border city of Perpignan in December and again earlier this month where he met the terrorist chiefs.
Carod-Rovira admitted meeting the ETA leaders, claiming he was exploring the possibility that the group may agree to a ceasefire as a first step towards an eventual accord on ending political violence in northern Spain’s Basque region.
ETA, an outlawed group whose initials stand for Basque Homeland and Freedom, has killed more than 800 people, mostly members of the Spanish security services, in its 36-year armed campaign to establish an independent Basque state.
Chief Prosecutor Jesús Cardenal has said he is opening an investigation into whether the politician’s meeting with the ETA leaders could result in criminal charges.
The scandal, which was revealed in the right-wing ABC newspaper on Monday, has caused huge damage to the left in Spain in the run-up to the general election on 14 March.
The ruling conservative Popular Party has made “no deals with ETA” one of its most popular policies.
Currently, the PP is ten points ahead of the socialist PSOE in the latest polls.
The PP will be led at the election by deputy Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy as serving Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar will not stand again.
[Copyright EFE with Expatica]
Subject: Spanish news