Spain interior minister 'should quit' over secret tapes

Spain's Interior Minister Jorge Fernandez Diaz (file image) Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Mr Fernandez Diaz (file image) said claims he had committed a crime were slanderous and stupid

Spanish interior minister Jorge Fernandez Diaz is facing a political storm after leaked tapes appeared to show him trying to incriminate political rivals.

The tapes, which allegedly date from 2014, were published on the Publico website (in Spanish) four days before Sunday's general election.

Opposition party leaders have called on him to resign in light of the claims.

But Mr Fernandez Diaz called the tapes "biased, out of context and edited".

"To accuse me of conspiring to commit a crime is an insult and slander and stupid," he said, according to El Pais daily (in Spanish).

Spaniards return to the polls for the second time in six months on Sunday, after December's election failed to produce a government.

The government of Mariano Rajoy, leader of the centre-right Popular Party (PP), remains in place in a caretaker role.

In the transcript published by Publico, Mr Fernandez Diaz is apparently heard in conversation with Daniel de Alfonso, head of the anti-fraud office in Catalonia.

Separatist parties in the north-eastern region have been pushing for independence in defiance of the national government in Madrid.

The two men are said to have discussed possible investigations that could be launched against pro-independence politicians or their relatives, although Mr Alfonso warns that the cases are "weak".

The tapes sparked immediate calls to resign from opposition leaders.

Who's who in Spanish politics?

Image copyright EPA. AFP, Reuters
Image caption From L to R: Mariano Rajoy. Pablo Iglesias, Pedro Sanchez and Albert Rivera

Popular Party (PP): Centre-right party of Acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, in power since December 2011 but lost its majority in 2015

Podemos Left-wing party founded in 2014 by university professor Pablo Iglesias

Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE): Centre-left party, led by Pedro Sanchez, in power alternately with PP since 1982

Ciudadanos (Citizens): Centrist party formed in Catalonia in 2006 opposing Catalan independence before going national in 2013, led by Albert Rivera

Pablo Iglesias, leader of the anti-austerity Podemos party - which has forged into second place behind the PP in recent polls - said the alleged revelations were "one of the most serious turns of events in the country" and should trigger Mr Fernandez Diaz's "immediate resignation".

"I've heard the recordings and see a minister apparently using his position and public resources to investigate political opponents," Mr Iglesias said in a radio interview.

Socialist leader Pedro Sanchez called for Mr Fernandez Diaz to "immediately leave political life", while Ciudadanos (Citizens) leader Albert Rivera said his call to quit was conditional on the authenticity of the recordings being proven.

But Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said the minister had explained himself and should not resign four days before an election.

"Someone is trying to take advantage and fish in troubled waters to see what comes out," he said.

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