Spanish PM talks tough on party graft scandal

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Updated 20 January 2013
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Spanish PM talks tough on party graft scandal

MADRID: Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy vowed yesterday he would “not flinch” in punishing corruption if any were revealed in his party, which was shaken this week by allegations against a former top official.
Rajoy moved to calm the controversy, which prompted angry demonstrations on Friday outside the offices of his conservative Popular Party (PP) and threatened to destabilize him as he grapples with an economic crisis.
“Today unfortunately our party is subject to controversy. I want to tell you all to be calm. The Popular Party has always acted with transparency and rigor when it has been called into question,” he told a party gathering in Almeria.
“If I ever hear of irregularities or improper conduct concerning members of our party, I will not flinch,” said Rajoy, who won power from the Socialists in a massive election victory in November 2011.
The center-right newspaper El Mundo reported Friday that senior members of the party, which Rajoy has led since 2004, had received undeclared salaries, mainly from private companies, over a 20-year period.
Citing unnamed former members of the PP leadership, the newspaper said the party’s former treasurer Luis Barcenas distributed envelopes containing thousands of euros to party officials on top of their official salaries.
El Mundo cited party sources saying that Rajoy never received such payments but that he ordered an end to the practice in 2009. That year Barcenas was implicated in another major corruption scandal and resigned as party treasurer. Rajoy warned the party yesterday its conduct must be “exemplary” and “honorable”, especially when Spaniards are suffering in a recession.
“We must be more exemplary in our conduct, if that is possible, because that is what people quite rightly expect,” he said yesterday in the televised gathering in the southern city.
“Many Spaniards are having a very hard time and we can only demand efforts and sacrifices of them if our compatriots can see that our behavior is beyond all suspicion. We must be honorable.”


Thai court grants bail to detained pro-democracy activists

Police have charged each activist with several offenses, including violating a ban on political assembly and obstructing officials. (AP)
Updated 16 min 52 sec ago
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Thai court grants bail to detained pro-democracy activists

  • The activists were arrested Tuesday at a protest marking the anniversary of a 2014 military coup and calling for elections this year

BANGKOK: A court in Thailand granted bail Thursday to 15 pro-democracy activists who were arrested earlier this week during a protest against military rule at which several thousand police were deployed.
Krisadang Nutjaras, a lawyer for the student activists, told reporters they applied for bail after the court agreed to a police request for a further 12 days’ detention. It was set at 100,000 baht ($3,100) for each person, he said.
Police have charged each activist with several offenses, including violating a ban on political assembly and obstructing officials. They are required to report back to authorities in eight days and their bail is conditional on not participating in illegal political demonstrations.
The activists, who were arrested Tuesday at a protest marking the anniversary of a 2014 military coup and calling for elections this year, were applauded by supporters as they walked out of the Bangkok Criminal Court complex.
“Only barbaric countries say elections are illegal,” a 25-year-old protest leader, Rangsiman Rome, said outside the court. “Thank you everyone for coming. Today will not be the last day for our fight.”
Documents that police submitted to the court argued that bail should be denied because of the seriousness of the offenses. They also said they needed more time to complete their investigation.
Krisadang accused police of filing “excessive charges” against the protesters. He also criticized the court for refusing to hear counterarguments when it considered the request for detention to be extended.
“We never got a chance to present our reasoning to show the court that the kids are people who love democracy,” he said. “If in our country people use their rights to ask for democracy and get arrested and deemed traitors that cause havoc, there is not much hope left.”
Tuesday’s protest drew about 200 demonstrators but was met with an overwhelming security response. More than 3,000 officers were deployed to prevent the activists from marching from a Bangkok university campus to Government House.
The protesters, mainly middle-aged and elderly people led by a core of student activists, have been holding regular rallies for the last few months, calling for the junta to resign. Political gatherings of five or more people are banned by the military government.