Tolo Cursach arriving at court yesterday. | Alejandro Sepúlveda


Bartolomé Cursach, returned to Palma prison after a court ruling that he should not have been transferred to a prison in Alicante, had the short journey to the Via Alemania courts yesterday morning for his first court appearance since being jailed on numerous charges.

Cursach, his hair cut short, arrived by National Police van at 9am. With him in court were his two right-hand men in the Cursach Group, Bartolomé Sbert and Antonio Bergas, both of whom were arrested at the same time as Cursach at the end of February; Sbert has been detained, while Bergas has been at liberty but under charges. Judge Manuel Penalva, the investigating magistrate, also heard from one of Cursach's lawyers, Fernando Pareja, who is under investigation.

Coinciding with Cursach's appearance was a demonstration outside the court involving some 300 people. They were demanding the disqualification of Penalva and the anti-corruption prosecutor, Miguel Ángel Subirán. A banner read "corruption in the court of instruction". This was a reference to what is being claimed has been a manipulation of evidence in order to detain people who are said to be innocent. The protesters later made their way to the Balearic High Court.

Last week, a key witness in the Cursach affair had contact with another of Cursach's lawyers, Vicente Campaner. She told him that she had been coerced by Penalva and Subirán into giving false evidence. "There are many 'irregularities', many lies and disguised truths," she is said to have informed the lawyer. She went on to suggest that statements had been redacted by Penalva and Subirán and that she had merely signed them.

Campaner and another lawyer, José Ignacio Herrero, filed a complaint with the High Court on Thursday and called for Penalva, Subirán and investigating police officers to be arrested.

In court, Cursach spent just fifteen minutes answering questions from two more of his lawyers, Enrique Molina and Juan Socías, and one question from the judge. He did not respond to questions from Subirán. In the answers he gave, he denied having bribed officials at Palma town hall. Sbert also denied all charges and claimed that the National Police had sought to pressurise him into implicating José María Rodríguez, the former president of the Partido Popular in Palma.

It has been alleged that Rodríguez was compensated for favours shown to Cursach companies, such as with parties involving prostitutes. Previous evidence from the key witness has implicated Rodríguez and Álvaro Gijón, who was the PP deputy mayor of Palma at the time these parties are said to have taken place.