Enrique Arnaldo avoids talking about the Lezo bugging and Concepción Espejel denies being close to PP

The Congress of Deputies has given its endorsement on Tuesday to the four candidates agreed by PSOE and PP to occupy a seat in the Constitutional Court in the next renewal. A session of the consultative commission of appointments without major clashes in which the candidates proposed by the PP, Enrique Arnaldo and Concepción Espejel, have defended their impartiality and have disassociated themselves from their possible ties with the conservative formation to questions from the socialists. The two candidates proposed by the PSOE, Inmaculada Montalbán and Juan Ramón Sáez, have not received criticism from the parliamentary groups with Vox and Ciudadanos leaving the commission and denouncing a “theatrics”.

The names of the PP in the Constitutional: Espejel, ‘dear Concha’, and a professor who maneuvered with Ignacio Gonzalez

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Enrique Arnaldo, candidate of the Popular Party to occupy a seat in the Constitutional Court, has been the first to appear this Tuesday in the Congress of Deputies amid criticism from almost all parliamentary groups against his suitability. Arnaldo has acknowledged that he was charged more than a decade ago in the ‘Palma Arena’ case but recalled that the case was archived, has not alluded to the wiretaps of ‘Operation Lezo’ in which he spoke with Ignacio González and has rejected being a partial candidate to enter the court of guarantees. He has assured that “I have no friends in politics” and that “I am an honest professional and I will be all my life”.

Enrique Arnaldo has become the most controversial name on the list of four candidates agreed by PP and PSOE to renew a third of the Constitutional Court. As elDiario.es explained the same day the agreement was announced, the PP candidate had appeared in two corruption cases without criminal consequences for him. The first was when he declared as an imputed in the case ‘Palma Arena’ accused of helping Jaume Matas to launder money – case archived by prescription – and the second when the investigators of the ‘operation Lezo’ recorded him talking to the former president of Madrid, Ignacio González, about a possible change in the Attorney General’s Office that would favor their interests.

This Tuesday Arnaldo has only referred to his imputation in Palma Arena recalling that he was exonerated. He recalled that “my time in court was limited to testifying in a process and I was exonerated when the judge issued the order to file” and claimed that when someone is exonerated “can not become an eternal suspect, I am an honest professional and I will be all my life”. He has not made explicit comments on that conversation with Ignacio González.

The professor has heard how several representatives of parliamentary groups have questioned his suitability not only for these two appearances in judicial summaries but also for his participation in conferences of the FAES foundation or the publication of various articles. Other groups, such as the PSOE through Odón Elorza, have asked about his compatibility to combine his work as a lawyer of the Congress with his private office. Arnaldo has stressed that “I have never been a member of any party, never”, emphasizing that he obtained this compatibility in 2002 and has defended that “impartiality is not lost for having given lectures in a foundation”.

Espejel denounces a campaign against her

Concepción Espejel, president of the criminal chamber of the National Court, was the second to speak. An appearance in which she defended her impartiality, denied being a friend of María Dolores de Cospedal and denounced being the victim of a “smear campaign” since she was removed from several trials of the Gürtel case. Espejel, who has appeared immediately after Enrique Arnaldo, has stated that “I have never received any kind of indication”, not even in his time in the General Council of the Judiciary. “I have maintained my impartiality and I will always maintain it,” he said while denying having had affiliation or affinity with the Popular Party.

After interventions without major criticism from the parliamentary groups, Espejel has referred to his recusal in several trials of the Gürtel case for his alleged closeness to the Popular Party. He recalled that “I was recused” but in an order in which “some issues that are now attributed to me are dismissed”. The parties and associations that asked to set aside Espejel for his ideological closeness to the conservative formation, has ensured that this “was expressly rejected by the plenary, I was set aside but not for that circumstance”.

He assures that the expression “dear Concha” with which María Dolores de Cospedal referred to her when giving her the cross of San Raimundo de Peñafort has been manipulated and taken out of context. That day, he recalled, the expression was coined by another speaker and Cospedal simply repeated it. That expression “does not demonstrate any kind of intimate friendship that, in addition, I do not have” and she was removed because, at the time, accessed the General Council of the Judiciary at the proposal of the Popular Party and voted, among others, by Luis Bárcenas when he was a senator. He also recalled that the criminal chamber that decided his recusal lived a very divided vote and that the current Minister of the Interior, Fernando Grande-Marlaska, was one of those who voted in favor of not removing Espejel from the trial. He has concluded that “it is very important to mount a smear campaign by a sector of the media against a magistrate”.

No criticism of Montalbán and Sáez

Finally, the two candidates proposed by the PSOE took the floor: Inmaculada Montalbán and Juan Ramón Sáez, magistrate and magistrate of the High Court of Andalusia and the National Court, respectively. Neither of the two have seen their impartiality questioned by the representatives of the political groups with Txema Guijarro (Unidas Podemos) assuring in the case of Montalbán that “her technical aptitude is amply demonstrated” and Odón Elorza (PSOE) affirming that she brings “the profile at this historic moment for the processes of equality and the fight against gender violence”. Montalbán was a member of the CGPJ, like the other candidates, and was at the head of the Observatory against gender violence.

It was in this intervention when Elorza referred to the agreement reached between PP and PSOE to renew a third of the Constitutional as a process that “with limitations and some traps, it is possible that it will be achieved”. Expression in reference to the two candidates of the PP and that has not liked the popular spokeswoman Isabel Borrego: “I do not understand the expression that we have heard before, “un trágala”, in which the presumption of innocence is broken or that what is written in the media becomes reality”.

The last to testify was Juan Ramón Sáez, magistrate of the Audiencia Nacional, who has also received praise from all parties and has predicted that he only sees reasons to abstain in cases that he himself has sentenced. He has assured that “what is forbidden to the judge is not to have an idea, we all have ideas about abortion, the state, the form of government …” but adding that the judge’s job is to be aware of this irreducible margin in order to try to prevent it”.

Ciudadanos and Vox abandon the commission

This Tuesday is scheduled to appear all the candidates to occupy seats in the Constitutional: Enrique Arnaldo, Concepción Espejel, Juan Ramón Sáez and Inmaculada Montalbán. Both Edmundo Bal (Ciudadanos) and Iván Espinosa de los Monteros (Vox) have announced that both formations will not participate in the rest of the appearances. From the orange formation, Bal has denounced that “all the fish is already sold, we already know who will be the magistrates of the Constitutional” before ensuring that “you are appointed for being a friend of someone from the Popular Party”.

Criticism of the selection process similar to those launched by the spokesman for Vox, who has attributed the renewal of judges to an alleged attempt by the Government to curb rulings favorable to appeals by the ultra-right party on the state of alarm. “No one believes that they appear here for their professional merits. They are here because they received a call from Ferraz or Genoa,” he said.

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