(Adds details, background)
MADRID, April 18 Spanish Prime Minister Mariano
Rajoy has been called to stand as a witness in a trial of
members of his ruling People's Party (PP) following a long
investigation into an alleged party slush fund, a court
spokeswoman said on Tuesday.
The appearance, on a date yet to be decided, will be
embarrassing for Rajoy, who has sought to distance himself from
a string of corruption scandals surrounding his party.
Rajoy heads a minority government, having lost support to
newcomer parties in a general election last year where
Spaniards' weariness with perceived institutional corruption
played a major role.
The long-running investigation into kickbacks-for-contracts,
known as the Gurtel case, went to trial in October after a probe
lasting nearly a decade, with dozens of suspects including
business people and PP members in the dock.
The PP denies any senior party officials were involved in
any cases of alleged corruption. It says only a tiny number of
its politicians are corrupt and that it is tackling the problem.
The court is at present trying PP members including the
former party treasurer, Luis Barcenas, on charges of organised
crime, falsifying accounts, influence-peddling and tax crimes.
The complex, multi-stranded trial has already seen prison
sentences handed down to three businessmen in February for their
roles in a kickback scheme. The trial is ongoing.
(Reporting by Inmaculada Sanz; Writing by Sonya Dowsett;
Editing by Mark Trevelyan)