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Why do they hate Garzón?

Por: | 19 de enero de 2012

Garzón in court
Is the trial of Judge Garzón a case of a country devouring one of its most brilliant children, or is it the downfall of a virtuoso who forgot that he needs an orchestra? If he loses, Spain also loses a great legal mind. But Spain is not given to the recognition of truly national figures.

Sporting heroes aside, it is hard to imagine a nationwide embrace of anyone, however much they may excel in their given field. Even when recognized the world over as an authority or a genius, back home the outstanding Spaniard is assumed to bear true loyalty to his or her clique, be it a region, a professional guild or political affiliation. While internationally, Garzón's reputation is that of a pioneering and ground-breaking lawyer in the pursuit of justice with a capital J, here he is typically viewed as a creature of the left in the interminable fight between two camps that poisons so many of Spain's institutions. And, apart from some 200 protestors at the door of the Supreme Court for the opening day of Garzón's first misconduct trial, few seem to be denouncing the fact that this revenge mission will probably lead to a terrible waste.

The suspended High Court judge is now facing the first of three misconduct cases, in this instance for ordering that jailed suspects in a corruption case have their phone conversations monitored, including those with their legal representatives. The judge says he took the step as part of investigations into the Gürtel-Popular Party network in order to frustrate plans to spirit ill-gotten gains out of the country. The Gürtel ringleaders are still in prison awaiting trial, but Garzón has been suspended from duties for almost two years, initially as a result of the second accusation he must face in the Supreme Court: that he deliberately overstepped his legal authority in opening a case on Franco-era atrocities which have yet to be investigated. For good measure, Garzón is also accused of accepting money from Banco Santander in exchange for organizing a conference at New York University.

Garzon-eneko-10-02-17garzonThe wiretaps were backed at the time by other judges, and Garzón's claim that money laundering was afoot and that he was not interested in spying on the Gürtel suspects' defense strategy seems perfectly credible. The Santander case seems to hold little fear for Garzón whose bank accounts came through a police probe with a clean bill of health. As for the Franco investigation, well of course he was pushing the bounds of juridical practice, holding up Spain's amnesty law and statute limitations to the test against international doctrines of universal justice. After the Zapatero government's Historical Memory Law had failed to provide a solid framework to help families seek relatives' remains and definitive truth, the judge was using the law to advance their cause.

Given the notorious leniency with which inept judges are treated by Spain's judicial authorities, is it the case then that Garzón's real crime is being a political judge? He became a Socialist Party member of Congress in 1993, but abandoned a year later, disillusioned with the González government's passive attitude to corruption. He would later say that he had been "arrogant" to think that he could affect change from the parliament benches.

But, if he had been a simple party man, intent on rising up as far as possible within the cozy networks that dominate the political and legal spheres, he would not find himself in the situation he is in today. Instead, he chose to act out his political and moral principles, seeking tools within the legal system to bring abusers to justice. The Pinochet case brought him international fame, but in Spain he had already taken on drug barons, corrupt figures such as Jesús Gil, ETA and its political networks, and, yes, Socialist government officials involved in the GAL dirty war against the Basque terrorists.

Other judges must have felt wounded in their pride by the outsized role played by Garzón. Foolish or just brave, he did not work from within the power groups in a legal system which is divided into political clubs and hence failed to be granted promotion into the higher spheres of the court system.

Clearly, this crusading judge is not to everyone's taste. But what the Spanish right really hates in Garzón is what it perceives as the self-righteousness often to be found on the left, a kind of moral monopoly. What his supporters see as zeal, his enemies dismiss as an arrogant application of an ideology that holds that the right is to blame for all evil in Spain.

For me, the real trial of Judge Garzón would be to look him in the eyes and ask if he had gotten wind of a similar kickbacks scam within the ranks of the Socialist Party, would he have pursued it as doggedly. I would like to believe him.

Photograph by Andrea Comas (Reuters).

Cartoon by Eneko.


Hay 9 Comentarios

La justicia se termina comiendo en un buen plato.

Good food for thought here... I agree that the Spanish legal system is very defective and that is why this type of things happens in Spain.

The concept of Observe is the only one description of the historical program of the Dictatorship that doesn't understund anything. They come from de non freedom and now say impart us with training of democracy.

Yes, Enrique. France has a tremendous democratic tradition. How many "republics"? Yes, FIVE, but only interrupted by a tyrant, Napoleone, a several other "difficulties". I beg to remind you: Democracy and Justice are not the same thing. Garzón is corrupt because of his own actions, but he acted inside a corrupt government that permitted and exploited it. Democracy on the other hand... is a horse of a different color.

Now I have read it all! So, let me check: There is a relationship between Garzón and Viet Nam? Ah, no joke? The rest is to thick to discuss. Progres will go to any extent to defend their Stalinist abuses and deranged views of the Universe.

This is my personal impression about the case:
In first place, the EU legislation allows to monitor conversations in the cases of terrorism and financial crimes (so there are legal exceptions), and in this particular case the politicians were in prison accused of financial corruption (of public funds, which are Spanish citizen's taxes). Since the Spanish law is subjected to EU law, the recording of these conversations does not imply the violation of any constitutional rights of these "corrupt politicians" who have destroyed the country and have condemned thousands of Spanish families to the poverty and misery with their illegal activities and horrible mgmt.
In second place, according to the Police reports Garzon guaranteed the protection of the legal representatives' private speeches (right to a fair defence) during all the monitoring process; thus, the majority of Spanish citizenship still not understanding why the Supreme Tribunal did not consider these clear evidences (more than 60% according to statistics).
In third place, whatever political party you look at in Spain, is indeed a corrupt party, and these parties have influence over the legal system such as the power to change the election system of the judges (as example, the right wing party, after winning the recent elections immediately adopted an old, inefficient, and very criticized election system of ST's judges that did not guarantee the impartiality in the process at the time - so as you can see the Spanish system for selecting judges is not that impartial despite in the last years it has improved considerably; but once again Spanish ST IT'S NOT THAT IMPARTIAL).
In fourth place, I do not think that Garzon is a judge of the left party, as he also prosecuted several members of this party on the grounds of corruption and in the GAL case.
In fifth place, Spanish people love Garzon because he is one of the best judges of the Spanish democracy, he has always defended human rights and prosecuted corruption and fraud, and whatever thing a good judge does in order to defend the welfare of a society should be reason enough to love him; the rest is just demagogy.
Finally, Spain is not like GB or like any other EU country with a longer democratic tradition such as France, and its society still terribly divided and confronted. Moreover, the conservatives in Spain are not the same than other conservatives in Europe and GB (unfortunately, the conservative party and many of its members come from a dictatorship's background so social rights are not their strength, while the left party is horrible in managing finances and it is unable to implement efficient economic policies for the country).
With all this, I would like to say that I do not understand a sentence that condemns the only judge that has defended the interests of Spanish society, while politicians that are proved to be corrupt are still free (the recorded speeches may not be valid as the legitimacy of their obtaining is now undermined. However, the initial trial against Valencia's public administrators has been featured in TV, and all Spaniards could listen to these conversations. As a result, the majority of the population knows that there is evidence enough of financial crimes committed by their government, although a question of legal forms undermined the resolution of an effective and fair sentence). Therefore, the Spanish legal system is very defective and that is why this type of things happens in Spain.

Mr. Batolomé:

I don't come from anywhere. I live in 2011 and not in 1975 or 1936. My opinion is just a plain explanation of all facts. Garzón has had the rights and the privileges of a presumed innocent, as any other citizen in his same position has. The judge former congressman face a judgement because a court that has seen enough reasons to doubt if he acted correctly. All that rubbish about nazism and ideology means nothing. This is only a matter of law. If you don't see this as clearly as I do, perhaps you need some lessons of democracy indeed.

I agree to you absolutely.

The message of Witness is the only one explanation of the ancient regime of the Dictatorship that doesn't understund anything. They come from de non liberty and now pretend give us lessons of democracy.

That is the most dangerous message and if Mr. Garzón is condemned at least is open the door to the nazism. But there will be as in Vietnam, "un garzón, dos garzón, tres garzón..."



That´s not the right question. The question is: why do you love Garzón? A judge that ignore the constitutional rights of a citizen must be punished. In any democratic country, a prisioner has free comunication with his lawyer. In USA or in UK, the press asume the defense of the principles of democracy but it seems that PRISA prefers to stand by a man that helped the former owner of the firm in his particular revenge and in other affairs. Garzón is not a hero, is a incompetent official with a very dark curriculum of political partisanship. What is happening now is just the judgement of a man with a debt to justice.

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