Scandal-hit Spain PM denies corruption claims

Updated 03 February 2013
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Scandal-hit Spain PM denies corruption claims

MADRID: Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy yesterday denied allegations that he received undeclared payments from his ruling party, as he sought to douse a major corruption scandal.
Rajoy vowed not to resign despite the publication of documents purportedly showing secret payments to him and other top party officials, branding the damaging reports “harassment.”
He promised to publish full details of his income and assets, speaking at an emergency meeting of his conservative Popular Party as angry demonstrators outside called for him to step down.
“I have never received nor distributed undeclared money,” he said, adding that he would publish online “statements of income, patrimony and any information necessary” to refute the allegations.
“I commit myself personally and all of my party to maximum transparency.” Rajoy, 57, was speaking out for the first time since being named in the scandal which struck at a tense time as the government imposes tough spending cuts on Spaniards suffering in a recession.
Last year he defied speculation that the country would need a financial bailout only for the political scandal to erupt in the New Year.
Leading center-left newspaper El Pais on Thursday published account ledgers purportedly showing that donations were channeled into secret payments to him and other top party officials.
The newspaper said the alleged fund was made up of donations, mostly from construction companies, adding that such payments would be legal as long as they were fully declared to the taxman.
Rajoy said the ledgers were false.
The allegations fueled anger among Spaniards suffering in a recession that has thrown millions out of work.
“We must not allow Spaniards, of whom we are demanding sacrifice to think that we do not observe the strictest ethical rigor,” Rajoy said.
Protesters say ordinary Spaniards are being made to pay for an economic crisis brought on by the collapse of a construction boom, which many blame on corrupt politicians and unscrupulous banks.
As Rajoy spoke, demonstrators yelling “Thieves!” gathered near the party headquarters, kept at some distance by police barriers.
Among them, 54-year-old school teacher Maxi Sanchez Pizarro vented his anger at the politicians he blamed for economic hardship.
“My sister is on the verge of being evicted and I didn’t get my Christmas bonus, while those ladies and gentlemen not only got their Christmas bonuses but have also been robbing our money,” he said.
“They are shameless crooks and thieves,” he added. “I hope they have the honor to resign and call an election.” An online petition at change.org calling for Rajoy to resign, launched on Thursday, had gathered nearly 650,000 signatures by yesterday afternoon.
On Thursday El Pais cited ledgers kept by former party treasurer Luis Barcenas, apparently showing payments including 25,200 euros ($34,000) a year to Rajoy between 1997 and 2008.
Barcenas was already under investigation in connection with a separate corruption case, with reports that he had millions of euros in a Swiss bank account.
Rajoy said that case had nothing to do with the party and that it had never had foreign bank accounts.


Karadzic insists he sought ‘peace’ in Balkans war

Updated 53 min 38 sec ago
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Karadzic insists he sought ‘peace’ in Balkans war

  • The once-feared Bosnian Serb leader is urging the judges to throw out his 2016 conviction for war crimes and genocide.
  • He was found guilty of 10 charges, including genocide in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre — Europe’s worst bloodshed since World War II.

THE HAGUE: Convicted criminal Radovan Karadzic on Tuesday accused Bosnian Muslims of “declaring war” on Serbs, insisting at his appeal before a UN tribunal that he had worked for peace in the Balkans.
The prosecution’s case against him was “upside down, the wrong way up,” Karadzic insisted, on the second and final day of his appeal in The Hague.
The once-feared Bosnian Serb leader is urging the judges to throw out his 2016 conviction for war crimes and genocide, and either acquit him or order a new trial.
“Nothing in these proceedings that was alleged is true,” he said in an animated personal address to the judges, saying it meant “that the conflict between us will persist.”
In March 2016, Karadzic was sentenced to 40 years in jail for his role in the bloodshed during the Bosnian war which left 100,000 people dead and 2.2 million others homeless, amid the ethnic conflict which tore the former Yugoslavia apart.
He was found guilty of 10 charges, including genocide in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre — Europe’s worst bloodshed since World War II, when some 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were separated from their families, shot and killed, their bodies dumped in mass graves.
Karadzic was also convicted of orchestrating the 44-month siege of Sarajevo in which some 10,000 people died under relentless sniping and shelling.
But Karadzic, 72, insisted the city had been a stronghold of the Bosnian Muslim army “whose aim was to take over all of the city” and expel the Bosnian Serbs.
“We were the ones on whom war was declared, defense is legitimate,” he added.
“We never had anything against Muslims, we considered them Serbs with a Muslim religion,” he said, adding: “Serbs, Muslims, Croats, we are one people, we have one identity.”
“Our main wish was for the Muslims to remain with us in Yugoslavia,” he said, adding it was the Bosnian Muslims who wanted to secede.
“How is it possible not to see that Serbs in Sarajevo and in Bosnia-Hercegovina were in favor of peace? They made desperate concessions,” he said.
The former strongman has lodged 50 grounds of appeal after he was convicted by trial judges at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).
But prosecutors insist Karadzic “abused his immense power to spill the blood of innocent civilians,” and urged the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT) — which has taken over from the ICTY — to impose “the highest possible sentence, a life sentence.”
The prosecution is also urging judges to reverse his acquittal on a second charge of genocide in Bosnian municipalities and find him guilty instead.
“Karadzic and his associates knew they would need to spill rivers of blood to carve out the ethnically homogenous territory and they sought and they embraced this bloody path,” said prosecutor Katrina Gustafson.
He “threatened non-Serbs with extinction and annihilation ... and incited inter-ethnic fear and hatred,” she said.
“He set the stage for a criminal campaign of a genocidal nature, aimed at destroying the targeted community,” Gustafson added. Once it got underway, “Karadzic oversaw it from the apex of power.”
Presiding judge Theodor Meron closed the hearing saying he and the four other judges would hand down their ruling “in due course.”
After years on the run, Karadzic was caught in 2008 on a Belgrade bus, disguised as a faith healer. He was handed over to The Hague and his trial opened in October 2009, lasting until October 2014.
He is the highest-ranked person to be convicted and sentenced at the ICTY, after Serbian ex-president Slobodan Milosevic died in 2006 while on trial.
Documents released Tuesday showed the court has freed on health grounds Bosnian Croat policeman Berislav Pusic, who was a member of the self-proclaimed Bosnian Croat state of Herceg-Bosna.
Pusic’s 10-year sentence imposed for atrocities against Bosnian Muslims was upheld on appeal in December, but Meron approved his release after serving almost two-thirds of his term, saying “his health condition is a factor generally weighing in favor of his early release.”