PP politician in court over hit-and-run

Esperanza Aguirre, under scrutiny for disobeying an officer, gave judge her version of April 3 events

Madrid -
Esperanza Aguirre arriving at the courthouse in Madrid's Plaza de Castilla.
Esperanza Aguirre arriving at the courthouse in Madrid's Plaza de Castilla.Juan Carlos Hidalgo (EFE)

Esperanza Aguirre, a well-known Madrid politician, appeared in court on Monday on charges of disobeying a police officer in connection with a traffic incident last April.

Aguirre, a former regional premier and currently the head of the Madrid branch of the Popular Party (PP), told journalists gathered at the entrance to the courthouse that she was “thrilled” to be able to give the judge her version of events. On September 30, six traffic officers and two local police officers will provide their own testimony.

She also joked about not standing out on the road to discuss the issue with reporters. “Please, I have enough trouble with bus lanes,” she quipped.

On April 3, Aguirre was caught by municipal police after double-parking her car on the bus lane in Madrid’s Gran Vía. While she initially cooperated and handed officers her papers, at one point the politician, who is a very familiar figure to Madrileños, felt that she was being detained beyond what was reasonable and decided to drive away, knocking down a parked police scooter as she did so.

Analysts wonder whether Aguirre’s chances at running for mayor of Madrid will be hurt

A car chase ensued, ending at Aguirre’s home in the neighborhood of Malasaña, where her bodyguards came out to meet the police. The incident was widely publicized, and while Aguirre has treated it mostly as a joke, critics say that any other citizen would have been arrested and thrown in the cells for the same behavior.

Her defense claims that Aguirre’s conduct was just a minor contravention, but the association whose legal actions landed her in court on Monday says it is much more than that.

“Disobeying the municipal police is a crime, not a contravention,” says Luis Gerez, the lawyer who helped the association Justicia y Transparencia appeal an initial decision that was favorable to Aguirre. “Any regular citizen, given the same events, would have ended up in handcuffs, locked up at the police station, and immediately been subject to a fast-track trial.”

Critics of the powerful and well-connected politician, who is a Grandee of Spain and Honorary Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire, feel that she was being let off easy because of who she is.

Now that the case has landed her in court after all, political analysts wonder whether Aguirre’s chances at running for mayor of Madrid will be hurt. The city votes in municipal elections next year, and the incumbent Ana Botella has already said that she will not run for re-election.

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