justice

Reform of trial rules will require PM and other officials to appear in court

Changes will eliminate privileges that keep public officials from testifying in person

Under proposed modifications to trial proceedings, public officials – ranging from the prime minister to regional premiers – will no longer be immune from being called to testify in person in a criminal court.

Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón told Congress on Wednesday that the government was working on reforms to the Criminal Proceedings Law that would require all public officials, including top judicial and congressional officers, to appear in court rather than being given the option to provide written testimony.

The changes, which are being drafted by a government team under the recommendations of legal experts, will also do away with other privileges currently enjoyed by officials that give them the option of testifying through video conference from their office.

A number of government officials have recently taken advantage of this immunity in criminal cases. Former Madrid regional premier Esperanza Aguirre responded to questions with written responses when she was called to testify in the Gürtel kickbacks-for-contracts inquiry, as did former Valencian premier Francisco Camps in the Nóos case, which has ensnared King Juan Carlos’ son-in-law, Iñaki Urdangarin.

Gallardón’s announcement cane as the result of a question asked by the parliamentary spokeswoman from the Union, Progressive and Democracy party (UPyD), Rosa Díez.