Versions clash as former minister faces deputy in state espionage case

Tension as Fernández Díaz stands trial, accused of using the police to steal information for party purposes

Former Spanish Home Affairs Minister Jorge Fernández Díaz and his former number two, former Secretary of State for Security Francisco Martinez, have been involved in a tense legal battle at the Spanish High Court on Friday, according to legal sources. Each one of them has taken the position maintained during the statement separately, as defendants, before Judge Manuel García-Castellón. This comes as part of "Kitchen" case, which investigates the parapolice operation that was allegedly financed with reserved funds in order to retrieve damaging information to the People's Party (PP) from ex treasurer Luis Bárcenas, as well as all the other corruptions schemes slowly being revealed by ex police commissioner Villarejo.

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The confrontation began with tension regarding the SMS messages sent between the two parties. The former interior minister - who did not hand over his cell phone during the investigation stage, as he had been required to do - has assured that he learned about the case from the press and has accused Martinez of "manipulating" the SMS messages that he allegedly sent about the operation. However, the former secretary of state for security has defended that they were true and that is why he registered them with a notary. "Are you accusing me of a crime? What am I, a hacker?" he replied.

The meeting started at 10 a.m. and lasted almost two hours. García-Castellón wanted to confront everyone's versions face to face after Martinez tried to get the PP's leadership involved in the case. Martínez registered before a notary public a series of messages in which Fernández Díaz allegedly asked him to obtain information about Bárcenas' driver, Sergio Ríos, who was captured as a police informer for Operation Kitchen. But the former minister has maintained that he did not send any type of message related to this operation.

His lawyer, Jesús Mandri, has announced that they have presented an expert report by a computer specialist which concludes that the messages "are not real or true". He also pointed out that the summary of Martínez' conversations "shows that the two notarial acts were done under irregular and strange circumstances", because he exchanged messages with the notary who made the records. Regarding the refusal to present the mobile phone that Fernández Díaz had in 2013, Mandri has indicated that they have not done so because "he no longer physically has it", but that "he will attend to the judicial requirement" to present the mobile phone prior to the one he currently uses "because he has nothing to hide".

According to the defence of the former minister when he appeared at the High Court last week, some of the messages attributed to him by Martinez contain colloquial misspellings which are not typical of Fernández Díaz. In fact, the former minister showed the judge his cell phone, but the conversations with his former number two were empty. In the confrontation, Martínez has refuted this argument by saying that Fernández Díaz had saved contacts in his cell phone with the same type of misspelling as appeared in the text messages.

The statements were made behind closed doors because the investigation is only in the investigation phase for the moment. Fernández Díaz and Martínez have been seated before the judge. The former number two began his intervention with cordiality, assuring that he appreciated the former minister, but reiterated that he had been "hung out to dry by the PP," as he said in an interview with El País, always according to the version of legal sources present during the statement. But the confrontation has gone up in tone, then dropped for a while and returned to a final tension after two hours. It started at ten o'clock and the judge had already left at one o'clock but the two accused did not leave until almost two o'clock after signing the declaration and without responding to the media. For Fernández Díaz's lawyer "there have been moments of tension but the two people are polite" and cordiality has prevailed. "I have no doubt that he has been more emphatic and clearer than Martínez," he said in statements to the media.

The implications for the PP

The case is a time bomb for the PP. Pablo Casado's leadership is trying to disassociate itself from the case while Fernández Díaz is keeping his membership card, because no oral trial has been opened against him. In addition, the Prosecutor's Office has also requested the indictment of the PP's former secretary general and former minister María Dolores de Cospedal. García-Castellón has not ruled it out but first wanted to focus on the versions of Martínez and Fernández Díaz. According to the order that led to the indictment of the former minister, the ministry "would have directed and coordinated the entire operation, allegedly with the direct participation of the minister and acting as his delegate, the Secretary of State for Security". In addition, the "Kitchen" case summary puts former Spanish President Mariano Rajoy on the ropes and affects his number two, Soraya Sáenz de Santamaria.

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