Spanish minister urged to quit over hunting trip

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The Independent Online

Spain's Justice minister, Mariano Fernandez Bermejo, has faced calls to resign after it emerged that he was on a hunting trip with Baltasar Garzon, the judge investigating alleged corruption in the main conservative opposition, the Popular Party.

Mr Bermejo said that he would not resign over the "inopportune" excursion and insisted it was a coincidence that he and Mr Garzon were hunting in the same area of Andalusia.

Mr Garzon is leading an investigation into bribery and misallocation of local government contracts in which Popular Party members active in town hall politics have been implicated.

The Popular Party says that the hunting expedition taken by Mr Bermejo and Mr Garzon is evidence of there being political motives behind the corruption inquiry and called on the minister in the Socialist government to resign.

"I'd resign if I had done something incompatible with my role," the minister said yesterday, in an interview in which he also admitted that he did not have a licence to hunt in Andalusia.

Opinion polls show the Socialists holding or extending their lead over the Popular Party despite unemployment having almost doubled since 2007 to nearly 14 per cent. On Wednesday, Spain's judges went on strike to protest against their workload.