Spanish PM under fire as wiretap scandal heats up

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The Popular Party is accusing Prime Minister Zapatero of persecuting and spying on its members.

Madrid – A scandal over alleged corruption and wiretaps in Spain heated up Tuesday as the opposition leader accused Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero of "persecuting" his party.

Mariano Rajoy, leader of the conservative Popular Party, condemned "televised arrests," "parallel trials" and "violations of secret investigations”, unworthy of a modern democracy like Spain.

"What is clear is that the government is persecuting members of the PP," he told a news conference in the northwestern region of Galicia.

"The one I hold responsible for all this is ... Zapatero," he said.

Rajoy also said he backed allegations made last week by the party's secretary general, Maria Dolores de Cospedal, that the government had ordered illegal wiretaps of some of its members.

The government reacted angrily to Rajoy's allegations.

Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba called them "the most vile of recent years" and part of a PP strategy "aimed at covering up its corruption problems”.

"To accuse the government of something as serious as persecuting and spying on the opposition" should be done "before the courts and with proof," he said.

A number of PP members have been under investigation since February in connection with a scandal in which bribes were allegedly paid to the regional governments of Madrid and Valencia by businessmen to ensure contracts.

The party's treasurer, Luis Barcenas, who has been questioned by a judge in connection with the scandal, announced in July he was stepping down until he was "proven innocent before the courts."

A court in Valencia last week dropped a corruption probe against the head of the Valencia regional government, Francisco Camps, a senior PP member. Prosecutors have since appealed the decision.

AFP / Expatica

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