The Balearic High Court (TSJB) yesterday revoked its decision to file the Formentera case involving alleged electoral fraud and urged the judge to transfer the case to the Supreme High Court, which must now decide whether or not to charge central environment minister Jaume Matas on the evidence presented. But Matas's party, the conservative Popular Party (PP) immediately sprang to his defence, saying that this did not mean that charges had been presented against him and deputy Rosa Estarás, who was also allegedly involved in the case. However, government leader Francesc Antich hailed the decision as “positive” and said it would help clear up the alleged manipulation of the electoral roll in Formentera in 1999. The court's decision was announced yesterday and the ruling said that appeals against the filing of the case had been studied and it had been decided to pass the case on to a higher court “to adopt the decision it deems pertinent.” At the time of the elections Matas was Balearic leader and Estarás one of his ministers. The court's decision said “at this moment the court cannot rule out that the matter investigated constituted an electoral offence and therefore cannot confirm its filing.” Judge Antonio Monserrat filed the bulk of the case on March 21, on the grounds that there were no signs of an offence, a decision which was appealed by the private accusation brought by the PSOE (Spanish Socialist Workers Party), the United Left (IU) and the Majorcan Socialist Party (PSM) and by the Balearic prosecuter Antonio de Vicente Tutor. The case involves the alleged use of public funds by the previous Balearic government, led by Matas, to capture the votes of Balearic emigrants in South America for the Popular Party in the regional elections of 1999. On hearing the court's decision, Balearic leader Francesc Antich expressed a desire for the matter to be cleared up as fully as possible and for the necessary steps to be taken. “I have always said that we were up against one of the biggest cases of ‘corruption’ in quotes in the Balearics, because it affects the right to vote,” Antich said yesterday. José María Rodríguez, the secretary general of the PP in the Balearics, dismissed the decision and said all it meant was that the case was continuing. He advised “prudence and patience in the wait for the High Court to make its decision.” He said that he was more convinced than ever of the innocence of Matas and Estarças. The decision is “just one more step in the process.” Central government spokesman Pio Cabanillas expressed his respect for the TSJB's decision, although he insisted it was only a partial estimation which did not affect the heart of the matter. The Balearic socialists and United Left, expressed their satisfaction at the decision, and said that they had always wanted the Supreme High Court to determine whether or not Matas should be charged. Antoni Alorda, spokesman for the PSM, advised the PP to start to purge its reponsibilities and recommended Matas to take the personal decision to resign. On a State level, the United Left expressed its confidence that the independence of Justic would lead to the clarification of the matter. Matas himself said that the court decision did not represent “any essential variation” in the case and added that he hoped the matter would be cleared up as soon as possible. The minister said that he was “absolutely tranquil” adding that he had full respect for the due process of the law. He explained that despite the court's decision, the matter “has not varied” and that “we are the first to be interested in the matter being cleared up.” He added that clearing up the matter would also mean that Antich's coalition government would have no more excuses and would have to “stop throwing smoke screens and give an account of its own actions.”


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