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New developments in the so-called Operation Kitchen case, under investigation by Spain's National Audience. The latest is that Jorge Fernández Díaz, former interior minister in Mariano Rajoy's Popular Party (PP) government, has been accused of being the head of the "para-police" operation which is at the centre of the case. It is alleged that this irregular police unit, led by the minister, spied on and stole documentation from former PP treasurer Luis Bárcenas, to prevent him from using it to incriminate other party members.

The investigating judge, Manuel García-Castellón, summonsed the former minister to testify as part of the investigative section of the case, on 30th October. The judge has done the same for Díaz's number two, former secretary of state for security, Francisco Martínez, who will appear a day earlier. On the other hand, he decided against calling for testimony from María Dolores de Cospedal, although he is leaving the door open to do so later.

In addition to Fernández Díaz and Martínez, the investigating judge today issued summonses for four witnesses. They are the former director of communications of the interior ministry, Juan José Esteban, the priest Silverio Nieto, the former chief of staff under Martínez, Jorge Sanchís Bordetas, and Icíar Castro Álvarez. As well, the court rejected other investigative routes requested by the anti-corruption prosecutor, such as the issuing of an accusation against former PP general secretary María Dolores de Cospedal.

 

 

The judge considers that Jorge Fernández Díaz's testimony is "necessary, useful and pertinent" because the investigations carried out so far place the "nuclear centre" of the operation at the interior ministry, "from where the whole operation seems to be have been directed and coordinated, presumably with the direct participation of the minister, and under the minister's delegation, the secretary of state for security".

Among the elements highlighted by García Castellón are the audio recordings from José Manuel Villarejo - the former police commissioner, currently in jail, whose wide-ranging involvement in extra-official activities generated the evidence which sparked the Operation Kitchen inquiry. The judge also considers it revealing that Sergio Ríos, Bárcenas's chauffeur, received monthly payments which were allegedly from interior ministry reserved funds. This "suggests knowledge of the facts by higher officials in the body," the judge asserts. Also, the fact that Ríos was able to obtain a place as a police officer after passing through a selection process, "which would have required the participation of positions with sufficient capacity for influence in the ministry."

With regard to the prosecutor's request to summons Cospedal and her husband, Ignacio López del Hierro, the judge believes that it is first necessary to call Francisco Martínez again, "who when first called did not want to testify but who has since stated his willingness to appear before the court."

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