The Catholic Church asked Salvadoran authorities to be lenient with the Spanish priest arrested on charges of aiding gangs, the Central American nation's attorney general said Tuesday.

Luis Martinez said he recently met with the papal nuncio, Leon Kallenga, and San Salvador Archbishop Jose Luis Escobar Alas to brief them on the case of the Rev. Antonio Rodriguez, known as "Father Toño."

"We have spoken with the papal nuncio and with Monsignor Escobar Alas about those issues. They are very clear about the role that Father Toño played" in the cases under investigation, Martinez said in an interview with Telecorporacion Salvadoreña.

"They asked me for us to be lenient with him. We are fully ready to cooperate with the Church," the attorney general said.

Rodriguez continues to remain under police guard in a San Salvador hospital, where he was taken last Friday due to problems with hypertension and diabetes.

Martinez said that his office's investigation, in particular intercepted telephone calls, implicate the Spanish priest in acts such as smuggling banned items to jailed gang leaders.

In other remarks to journalists, the attorney general rejected the idea that there had been any "political persecution" of Rodriguez.

The priest's defense team, as well as various religious and social organizations, have said that the case against the priest is politically motivated.

Rodriguez, the parish priest in Mejicanos, near San Salvador, heads a program to rehabilitate former gangmembers. EFE