Government defends top court judge over PP membership

Deputy head of body overseeing judiciary says political beliefs are a “private” matter

The Spanish government and other members of the country's judiciary on Friday came out in defense of the head of the Constitutional Court, Francisco Pérez de los Cobos, who earlier this week admitted to being a paid-up member of the ruling Popular Party (PP) while serving on the court.

"To have been a member of a political party does not prevent you from holding a post of responsibility," Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón told a news conference after the regular Friday Cabinet meeting.

De los Cobos paid his annual dues to the PP between 2008 and 2011, the year he was named to the Constitutional Court. He has refused to stand down, arguing that the law only bars magistrates from holding office if they simultaneously hold a post with a political party. The court has backed De los Cobos, issuing a statement on Thursday saying the law does not "establish incompatibility for belonging to, or having belonged to, a political party."

On Friday, Fernando de Rosa, the vice president of the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ), the body that oversees the judiciary in Spain, said De los Cobos' membership of the PP was a matter "of his private life." However, he said it is advisable for those holding posts such as De los Cobos' not to get involved in politics.

Without providing names, Gallardón said members of the CGPJ were known to be members of political parties. "This is the reality on which our democratic system operates and at no moment has being a member of a political party been understood as constituting grounds for incompatibility."

He said to bar members of political parties from holding a post in the judiciary would be a "limitation of fundamental rights."

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