No, not David Hicks, Saddam Hussein or Julian Assange. This time it is a Spanish activist judge Baltasar Garzón, who is being persecuted. According to Der Spiegel, “Garzón became famous for his dogged pursuit of dictators and others who had committed crimes against humanity across the world.” His strictly selective perception of dictators and crimes against humanity is not mentioned. Garzón came to the world fame because he issued an arrest warrant on Augusto Pinochet, not on Fidel Castro. Pinochet was probably responsible for 2000 to 3000 victims as opposed to approx. 70 000 victims of the Castro brothers. But murders and atrocities by the Left are not the news in the eyes of Main Stream Media, and Garzón picks his targets for their newsworthiness.
Born in 1955, he became a provincial judge at the age of 23 (three years after Franco died) and an Audiencia National (the central criminal court) investigating judge at 32. Six investigating judges of AN do not try cases; they direct the police in collecting and collating the evidence of crimes.* Garzón started his career by investigating drug cases. Obtaining a leave of absence, Comrade Garzón was elected to the national parliament for Partido Socialista Obrero Español (PSOE) and served as a minister in Felipe Gonzales’ government between 1993 and 1994. Then he returned to Audiencia National. One can speculate that he, just as many Australian judges, decided that he can do more for the cause of socialism on the judicial, rather than on a parliamentary bench. After all, parliaments are more visible and must appear to be democratic, at least to the benighted masses. I also suspect that the Gonzales’s relatively mild social democratic style did not appeal to a Marxist. Or maybe he resigned on a matter of principle – he was not made a Minister of Justice, as he wanted.
He investigated the Grupos Antiterroristas de Liberación (GAL, “Anti-terrorist Liberation Groups” , the hit-squads set up by officials within the Gonzales’ government to fight a clandestine war against the Basque separatists. Several of Garzón’s former political allies ended up in jail. In May 1998 he disbanded KAS (Koordinora Arbetzale Sozialista) alleging it is an arm of a Basque independence organisation Euskadi Ta Askatatuna (ETA) and later closed the newspaper Egin on similar grounds. Some of his supporters today hail this as evidence of the judge’s impartiality. It may be so. However, it ought to be remembered that ETA for most of its existence was torn by internecine struggle between groups with differing interpretation of the Marxist-Leninist teaching and suppresing one section may have benefited another.
In October 1998 Garzón saved himself from the fate worse than death i.e. obscurity by issuing an international warrant of arrest on ailing pensioner Pinochet. The former dictator was arrested in London and two years later allowed to go home to Chile. But the publicity for Garzón was worth it.
The hero then set his sights to the east. Not the east as in “The East is Red” but just over the Chilean border to Argentine, as Argentine was a quarter of century ago. Garzón’s investigation of the 1976 to 1983 military dictatorship resulted in prosecutions so successful that some officers are serving 1000 years sentences. I agree – but what about Castro brothers? When they will start their, even more deserved, 1000 years sentences?
And where would any self-respecting activist jurist be without that horrible Bush and his horrid Guantanamo? There Garzón was also successful. He issued indictments against terrorists of Spanish nationality held there and when USA extradited them to Spain, judge Garzón dropped the charges on “humanitarian” grounds and let them go.
On the subject of Bush and his atrocities – do you know that in March 2009, Garzón considered whether Spain should allow charges to be filed against six former officials** from the United States government under George W. Bush? Probably not, but by now you ought not to be surprised.
That the progressive judge finds himself before the court is only thanks to the special provision of the Spanish law which allows a complaint “from the people” to be acted upon. Garzón was suspended only in May 2010. The Public Prosecutor, appointed during Zapatero’s time could not find anything warranting criminal prosecution and had in fact argued for Garzón’s acquittal. It may be noted that the Government of Partido Socialista Obrero Español was defeated only in November last year, well after the court cases were instigated.
In one of the cases, Garzón is being accused of perverting justice by investigating what happened to the approximately 114,000 regime opponents who disappeared during the dictatorship of General Francisco Franco. Garzón “inexcusably ignored” the amnesty law of 1977, which forgives all political crimes committed during Franco’s dictatorship. One should mention that the “political” and “human rights” crimes committed by those on the misnamed “republican” side of the civil war, are also subject to the amnesty. No former NKVD executioner has anything to fear. Ignoring the laws of the own country and to prefer the so called international ones, whenever it suits the ideology, is becoming fashionable. Even some of our (RAN) admirals think so.
The Guardian of 17th January 2012 blissfully glosses over another case, the tapping of lawyers’ telephones ordered by Garzón. Had some judge authorised taps of telephone conversations between Asange and his erstwhile lawyer, the left celebrity Geoffrey Robertson QC, The Guardian would unleash its attack hyenas and the Socialist International would organise spontaneous “Occupy Courts Movement”.
Yet another case relates to bribery. It is alleged that during his sabbatical sojourn in expensive New York between 2005 and 2006 judge Garzón asked for, and obtained money from Spanish companies and banks, including Banco Santander, totaling US$2.5 million. A typical socialist hero, it would appear.
Gaspar Llamazares, the former head of the leftist coalition Izquierda Unida (United Left) and a member of the Communist Party of Spain, while demonstrating in support of Garzón outside the courthouse, said: “If they don’t get him for the one thing, he’ll fall over the next one.”
Let’s hope so.***
**/ a reader not familiar with European system is advised to read one of Georges Simenon’s Inspector Maigret books
**/ Alberto Gonzales, former Attorney General; John Yoo, of the Office of Legal Counsel; Douglas Feith, former undersecretary of defense for policy; William Haynes II, former general counsel for the Department of Defense; Jay Bybee, also at Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel; and David Addington, Vice President Dick Cheney’s Chief of Staff.
***/ subject to the presumption of innocence, of course