Slovene PM, Catholic Church clash over bribery

AP News
Posted: Jul 08, 2014 11:50 AM

LJUBLJANA, Slovenia (AP) — Slovenia's left-leaning prime minister was in a dispute Tuesday with local Catholic leaders after she complained to the Vatican about a bishop's criticism of a bribery conviction given a conservative ex-premier.

Prime Minister Alenka Bratusek sent a diplomatic note last week urging the Vatican's intervention after a top bishop suggested the corruption verdict against former Prime Minister Janez Jansa was politically motivated. Bratusek has said such comments from church dignitaries aim to influence the judiciary.

Jansa is serving a two-year prison term for bribery in a 2006 agreement with a Finnish arms dealer.

There has been no comment from the Vatican. But on Tuesday, another Slovenian Catholic bishop, Peter Stumpf, accused Bratusek of seeking to "deceive" the pope and score political points ahead of the July 13 early parliamentary election.

During his two terms in office, Jansa — a strong advocate of Slovenia's independence from communist-run former Yugoslavia — returned some property to the church that had been taken away by the communist regime.

Bratusek's center-left government took office last year after Jansa's Cabinet was ousted in a no-confidence vote because the prime minister was accused by the state anti-corruption watchdog of failing to declare 210,000 euros ($286,000) in personal assets.

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Also last year, the Catholic Church's two top dignitaries in Slovenia resigned after financial problems that reportedly involved a chain of failed businesses and multimillion-euro losses.

Bratusek resigned in May after losing the leadership of her political party but she is still the country's leader until a new prime minister takes office.