Spain moves to speed up courts over corruption concerns

13th March 2015, Comments 0 comments

Spain promised on Friday to speed up court investigations to calm complaints that big corruption cases drag on for years and let wrongdoers evade justice.

Spanish courts are swamped with corruption cases that have emerged over the recent years of economic crisis and are putting the heat on political parties ahead of a general election due around November.

The government on Friday approved a criminal justice reform bill that would cap the length of judicial investigations, Justice Minister Rafael Catala said.

The reform would oblige investigating magistrates to complete their investigations in six months in simple cases, and 18 months in more complex ones, he told a news conference after a cabinet meeting.

Judges would still have the possibility to extend their investigations in certain cases if necessary, however, he said.

Recent opinion polls have shown corruption to be one of Spanish voters' main concerns, along with unemployment.

Some pending investigations date back more than seven years, with corruption and fraud scandals affecting political parties on the left and right as well as banks, labour unions, football clubs and celebrities.

One of the biggest corruption scandals in Spanish history, the so-called "Gurtel case" targeting politicians of the governing Popular Party, dates to 2009 and still has not come to trial.

With such drawn-out court proceedings, "there cannot be a quick and exemplary punishment", said Juan Toharia, chairman of the polling institute Metroscopia.

That creates "an impression of impunity which greatly annoys people", he told AFP.

Fighting corruption is one of the battle cries of Podemos, the left-wing party that has surged in the polls since it was founded last year, and of another rising alternative opposition party, the centre-right Ciudadanos.

© 2015 AFP

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