A magistrate targets the Podemos leader in connection with the theft of an ex-colleague’s cellphone
An investigating judge at Spain’s High Court (Audiencia Nacional) has called on the Supreme Court to investigate Pablo Iglesias, who is one of Spain’s deputy prime ministers in the coalition government and a co-founder of political party Podemos. The move comes after the magistrate’s investigation into the so-called “Dina case,” which involves a cellphone that was stolen from Dina Bousselham, a colleague of the Podemos politician, and the subsequent publication of information that was stored on the handset’s memory card. Judge Manuel García-Castellón believes Iglesias may have committed unlawful acts such as filing a false crime report, disclosure of secrets and computer-related crimes. Iglesias can only be tried in the Supreme Court given his status as a minister grants him immunity in the lower courts.
According to the investigating judge’s findings, on January 20, 2016, Iglesias was given a mini-SD memory card that came from the cellphone of Dina Bousselham, a political scientist of Moroccan origin who is now the editor of left-wing online news site La Última Hora! He received the item from Antonio Asensio, the chairman of the media group Grupo Zeta, which owned the now-defunct publication Interviú. The card, which contained information about Podemos’s finances and personal files that were of a highly personal nature, had come into the possession of staff at Interviú from an anonymous source.
“Despite this,” the judge’s writ explains, “[Iglesias] kept it in his possession, without informing its owner, despite both of them being close to one another (she had been his advisor) and the knowledge he had of the disappearance of Dina’s objects since November 2015.”
This action, the judge continued, could be linked to the fact that the Podemos leader was able to see that the said item contained screenshots that Bousselham had saved of conversations in group cellphone chats in which Iglesias had participated. Interviú opted not to publish any of the contents of the card, and also handed a pendrive with its contents over to a then-police commissioner named José Manuel Villarejo, who is currently at the heart of a major judicial investigation into an alleged espionage network spanning two decades’ worth of phone taps, undercover recordings and other invasions of privacy against scores of politicians, business leaders, judges and journalists. The ‘Dina case’ is in fact an offshoot of the larger ‘Villarejo case.’
Although Interviú declined to publish the contents of the memory card, some of the cellphone screenshots were later published by Spanish daily OKDiario, and contained a series of sexist comments made by the now-deputy prime minister.
The judge also points to the fact that, when Iglesias returned the card to Bousselham, it was inoperative, suggesting it may have been tampered with. The magistrate also accuses Iglesias of calling on the party’s legal team to widen Bousselham’s initial legal complaint in order to falsely feign a connection between the images of the material published by OKDiario and the theft itself on November 1, 2015. These actions had an objective that was “strictly one of political opportunism,” according to the judge, with Iglesias seeking some kind of electoral advantage.
The leader of the opposition, Pablo Casado of the conservative Popular Party (PP), reacted to today’s news within minutes of it breaking. “Sánchez should immediately sack his Deputy Prime Minister Iglesias,” he wrote on Twitter, in reference to Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez of the Socialist Party (PSOE). “He should meet the same standards that he demanded in his motion of no-confidence,” Casado added, in reference to the successful bid by the PSOE to oust former PP Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy from power in 2018 after yet another corruption scandal dealt a blow to the party’s reputation.
Podemos, meanwhile, expressed surprise at the judge’s decision, pointing out that the criminal division of the High Court had, just three weeks ago, ruled that Iglesias was in fact an affected party in the investigation, rejecting Judge García-Castellón’s decision on July 17 to remove the status of victim from the party leader.
English version by Simon Hunter.