Director of Public Prosecution Office resigns after arguing with Rajoy and Catalan prosecutors
Spain’s Director of the Public Prosecution Office, Eduardo Torres-Dulce, has announced his resignation “for personal reasons”. However, it is well-known that Torres-Dulce has had several arguments with the Spanish Government, run by the People’s Party (PP) and chaired by Mariano Rajoy. The latest argument was about prosecuting the Catalan President and other members of the Catalan Government for the symbolic vote on independence held on 9 November. Several PP members announced the penal actions before Torres-Dulce had given the instruction to press charges. At that time, Torres-Dulce denied having been pressured by the Spanish Government, but many voices criticised the absence of a separation of powers. On top of this, the main public prosecutors in Catalonia initially rejected the criminal complaint, but Torres-Dulce – appointed by the Spanish Government – obliged them to file it. Furthermore, he has also had many arguments with the PP on account of the numerous corruption scandals being investigated.
Barcelona (ACN).- A month after announcing criminal prosecution for Catalan President Artur Mas’ part in the symbolic vote on independence held on 9 November, Spain’s Director of the Public Prosecution Office, Eduardo Torres-Dulce, announced his resignation on Thursday for “personal reasons”. However, since 2012 Torres-Dulce has had several arguments with the Spanish Government, run by the People’s Party (PP) and chaired by Mariano Rajoy. The latest one of these was about the aforementioned prosecution of the Catalan President and other members of the Catalan Government, which was announced by several members of the PP and the Spanish Government before Torres-Dulce had even given the instruction to press charges. Back then, Torres-Dulce denied having been pressured by the Spanish Government to file a criminal complaint against Mas, but the action was highly controversial and many legal experts and political parties criticised the absence of separation of powers in Spain as well as the risk of damaging democracy by pressing charges for authorising a symbolic and non-binding vote. Not only this, the main public prosecutors in Catalonia had initially rejected filing a criminal complaint against members of the Catalan Government for such a vote because they did not think an offence had been committed, but Torres-Dulce – appointed by the Spanish Government – obliged them to do so. Besides this particular spat, Torres-Dulce has also had many arguments with the PP because of the numerous corruption scandals affecting the party and, in particular, the so-called ‘Bárcenas case’, which raised suspicions about Rajoy himself and many other leading figures in the PP and the Spanish Government. On this occasion, Torres-Dulce defied the Executive and pressed charges against the PP’s former Treasurer, Luís Bárcenas, who is currently in jail and directly accused Rajoy of corruption.
On Thursday morning, through a short press release, Eduardo Torres-Dulce, who was appointed Director of the Public Prosecution Office by the Spanish Government in December 2011, announced his resignation for “personal reasons”. Torres-Dulce said he had already informed the Spanish Justice Minister, Rafael Catalá, about his decision. He is leaving his position after 3 controversial years, in which he had several arguments with the Spanish Government and had to insist on the theoretical independence of the Public Prosecution Office from the political powers and the Executive. In fact, the reform of the law governing the Public Prosecution Office does not allow the Spanish Government to fire him. Therefore, today many people are accusing the Spanish Government of pressuring Torres-Dulce to voluntarily quit.
The main sources of tension were the judicial investigations of the so-called ‘Gürtel case’, which is investigating alleged illegal funding of the PP during the years the party was led by José María Aznar and Mariano Rajoy. Within this large-scale case, there is a smaller case related to the former Treasurer of the PP, Luís Bárcenas, who is accused of alleged fraud that could be in the millions of euros. In the first months of the investigation, Bárcenas was not sent to jail as a preventive measure and it seemed the PP and Rajoy himself could be protecting him. However, in the end, he was formally accused by the Public Prosecution Office and sent to jail, after which he unveiled secret documents which accused Rajoy, the PP’s ‘number 2’, María Dolores de Cospedal, and many other leading members of the governing PP of having allegedly received money from the party in secret envelopes for many years, without informing the tax authorities. The case is still under judicial investigation but, at this point, the relationship between Torres-Dulce and the Spanish Government became quite tense.
The controversial prosecution of the Catalan President
The last main controversy involving Torres-Dulce and his relationship with the Spanish Government was the criminal prosecution of the Catalan President, Artur Mas, the Vice President, Joana Ortega, and the Catalan Minister for Education, Irene Rigau, for authorising and co-organising the symbolic vote on independence on Sunday, 9 November. On the Sunday evening, the Spanish Justice Minister stated that the public prosecution would act and, on the Monday (10 November), the leader of the PP in Catalonia, Alícia Sánchez-Camacho, and the PP leader in the European Parliament, Esteban González Pons, announced a criminal complaint would be filed by Torres-Dulce. However, Spain’s Director of the Public Prosecution Office had not yet given the instruction to do so and said they were still analysing the facts.
The following Wednesday (12 November), Torres-Dulce met with the main prosecutor in Catalonia, who is his subordinate, and they agreed to wait for a few days and leave the decision up to the prosecutors in Catalonia’s Supreme Court. Meanwhile, from the Government pressroom, the Spanish Deputy Prime Minister urged Torres-Dulce to act. A week later, after the main Catalan prosecutors rejected pressing charges, Torres-Dulce obliged them to do so, pulling rank in the hierarchical Public Prosecution Office. All this caused a great scandal in Catalonia, since it was seriously questioning the separation of powers and democratic guarantees in Spain. Torres-Dulce was asked about this case in the Spanish Parliament, but rejected any pressure from Rajoy’s Cabinet.
The Spanish Government is “surprised” by the resignation and denies asserting any pressure
The Spanish Justice Minister said he was “surprised” at Torres-Dulce’s resignation. However, he ruled out any political interpretation and stated it was only due to “personal reasons”. According to Rafael Catalá, the resignation had “absolutely” nothing to do with the prosecution of the President of the Catalan Government for November’s symbolic vote on independence. Catalá denied that there was any pressure from the PP or the Spanish Government on the Public Prosecution Office to press charges against members of the Catalan Executive for this episode. Catalá announced that the next Council of Ministers – scheduled for Friday – will accept the resignation and start addressing the matter of Torres-Dulce’s replacement.
All the opposition parties believe Torres-Dulce was pressured by the Spanish Government
However, despite Catalá denying any pressure and Rajoy doing the same thing on Thursday afternoon, all the opposition parties believe that the Spanish Government pressured Torres-Dulce during the last few months and dramatically influenced his resignation.
The Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) has directly accused Rajoy of trying “to colonise all the institutions of the State”. The PSOE’s Spokesperson before the Spanish Parliament, Antonio Hernando, accused Rajoy’s government of having “pressured” Torres-Dulce, obliging “an independent prosecutor who did his job well” to resign. “Rajoy’s attitude is unacceptable” since “he does not have enough with the absolute majority in the Parliament and Senate” and “wants to colonise the Parliament, the Senate, the Ombudsman, and now the Public Prosecution Office as well as the General Council of the Judicial Power (CGPF)” [which governs the judges and the entire Judicial Power in Spain]. “From a democratic point of view, it is unacceptable”, emphasised Hernando.
Catalan parties also linked Torres-Dulce’s resignation to pressure applied by the PP and the Spanish Government. The centre-right pro-Catalan State coalition CiU, which runs the Catalan Executive, considered the resignation to be “a serious matter”, since it is due to “the arguments with the Spanish Government”. These arguments were obviously regarding the judicial consequences of November’s symbolic vote and the “pressure” from the Spanish Government, stressed the CiU. The left-wing Catalan independence party ERC said that Torres-Dulce has been obliged to resign because the Spanish Government and the PP “do not forgive him for not having done the dirty job to stop” the non-binding vote on independence held on 9 November. The Catalan green socialist and post-communist coalition ICV-EUiA stated that the PP is “annoyed by democracy”. “Either citizens end the PP through their vote, or the PP will end democracy”, highlighted the ICV-EUiA. The Spanish nationalist and populist party Ciutadans (C’s) said that Torres-Dulce had resigned because of “political pressures” for “not stopping the illegalities” that took place on the 9 November in Catalonia. C’s commented that the Public Prosecution Office “has become the executive arm of the Spanish Minister of Justice”, which is “lamentable”.