Spain’s High Court to quiz Gibraltar leader over far-right politician’s torture claim

Allegations follow incident in June when Spanish flag was unfurled atop the Rock

Spain’s High Court has said it will investigate a lawsuit brought by a Spanish far-right politician who claimed he was unlawfully arrested and tortured in June this year on the orders of Gibraltar’s chief minister, Fabian Picardo.

Fabian Picardo, Gibraltar's Chief Minister.
Fabian Picardo, Gibraltar's Chief Minister.Marcos Moreno

On Wednesday, Judge Ismael Moreno, following the prosecution’s recommendations, said in a writ that the court would investigate the alleged torture of Nacho Mínguez, leader of the Madrid branch of Vox, set up by rebels on the far right of the Popular Party in late 2013.

Picardo said in a statement that the legal proceedings were “frivolous and vexatious and a clear abuse of process.”

“In addition, these proceedings are a slur on the excellent reputation and work of Her Majesty’s Royal Gibraltar Police, Her Majesty’s Prison Service and the Gibraltar Magistrates’ Court and legal system, all of which I have complete confidence in,” the statement added.

According to Vox’s complaint, Mínguez was detained for seven hours without food

The chief minister said he fully respected the Spanish courts and legal system and would therefore “not lose a moment’s sleep over this case.”

The incident allegedly occurred on June 20, when Mínguez, along with other Vox activists, was arrested in Gibraltar for unfurling a large Spanish flag on a hillside.

The tiny territory on Spain’s southern tip, governed by Britain since the 18th century, is the subject of frequent squabbles between the two nations.

The High Court also requested the Spanish Foreign Affairs Ministry to determine whether Picardo was protected by diplomatic immunity.

Moreno said the court would probe whether the circumstances surrounding Mínguez’s arrest could constitute torture or crimes against his moral integrity.

A tweet from Vox party leader Santiago Abascal of the unfurling of the Spanish flag in Gibraltar in June.

Mínguez claimed in his complaint that he had been subjected to an “incommunicado detention” and tried without due process.

The court will also look into the claims by Vox’s lawyer, Pedro Fernández, that he was detained by Gibraltar’s authorities for nine hours on June 22 when he arrived at the Rock to assist in Mínguez’s defense.

Fernández alleged that he was also held incommunicado and was told his detention would be prolonged if he refused to confess to unspecified crimes.

According to his account, the officials told him he was being treated in such a manner for “political reasons” and “under direct orders from the chief minister.”

The court requested British authorities to send copies of all police and judicial paperwork related to the arrests.

Picardo said he fully respected the Spanish courts and legal system

According to Vox’s complaint, Mínguez was detained for seven hours without food or access to decent toilets and subjected to inappropriate conditions before his hearing.

Fernández claimed there had been a “discriminatory treatment” of Mínguez during his trial, which he said had included many irregularities.

He added that the trial had to be suspended for several minutes so that the Spanish politician could be informed of the charges he was facing.

Officials also seized Mínguez’s cell phone after he allegedly took pictures of the courtroom.

Hoping to tap into public discontent over unemployment, the economy and corruption scandals, Vox fielded a candidate in the 2014 European elections, garnering less than 2% of the vote and failing to win a seat. The party also accuses Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of being soft on Catalan and Basque independence, as well as breaking election promises by raising taxes.

English version by Nick Lyne.

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