Is the English-language media totally missing the point and the real story about Spain’s controversial Judge Baltasar Garzon? One of Spain’s top centrist-libertarian bloggers thinks so.
To those unfamiliar with the long, polarizing, controversial saga of Garzon, the Los Angeles Times offers this summary — perhaps told through the perspective of the English-language media:
For years, conservatives in Spain bristled as their most famous magistrate, Baltasar Garzon, pushed the boundaries of international law against former Chilean dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet and human rights abusers in other countries, but they were powerless to stop him. When Spain’s star judge turned his sights on Spanish Civil War atrocities, however, they joined forces with his many personal enemies and went after him, accusing him of opening old wounds and violating the country’s 1977 amnesty law. Last week, a Supreme Court judge decided to bring the case to trial, and the General Council of the Judiciary voted in an emergency session to suspend Garzon.
From the beginning, the case against Garzon has seemed to be motivated by political and personal vendettas, and the timing of these decisions is no exception. Early in the week, Garzon had asked Spanish authorities for a seven-month leave to work as a consultant to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, presumably as a face-saving measure to avoid the humiliation of a suspension. But on Wednesday, an investigating magistrate for the Supreme Court (and one of Garzon’s detractors) suddenly ordered Garzon to face trial for proceeding without jurisdiction on the Spanish Civil War cases, and the suspension followed on Friday.
There’s more so go to the link to read it all.
But Spain’s Jose M. Guadia, =who publishes a lively and popular blog Barcepundit in both English and Spanish, says coverage by non-Spanish papers both oversimplifies and seriously omits much of what it going on. He lists several reasons in an extensive post. Here is the the beginning of it:
VIRTUALLY ALL the coverage of judge Garzón’s suspension in the English-language media lacks a basic understanding of recent events at best, or outright distortion at worst (yeah, I know, big surprise), on the nature of the accusation against him, the circumstances that surround it, and Spain’s recent history.
First, quite a few reports fail to mention that Garzón is in hot water not just for this case but also for other two, which involve very serious accusations: no less than bribery, and illegally tapping the conversations between detainees and their lawyers in a corruption case (Spanish laws only allow to do so in terrorism investigation). Breaking the attorney / client privilege, one of the fundamental tenets of a system under the rule of law, would make civil libertarians raise in anger if it was someone else. He’s also a notoriously bad judge (unlike the US, in Spain it’s the judge who investigates and builds the accusation). He takes on very high-profile cases but, after the televised perp walks and the media exposure, the courts end up finding the accused not guilty for insufficient evidence. It happened with the al-Qaeda terrorists who plotted to bomb the Madrid courts building, or the Operation Necora against drug lords in Galicia, among many others. And yes, even with Pinochet (just remember: where did the Chilean dictator ended up after the crusading judge went after him? At home. Some success.) Garzón has also often used more than questionable methods against detainees, such as calling the media to cover the actual arrests, long interrogations that prevented the accused from food intake. Or even calling detainees for questioning at midnight and keeping them up all night. Garzón is a night owl, but if it was Guantanamo instead of Madrid, Garzón would issue an arrest warrant against the interrogators. Of course if the reports mentioned all this many people would perhaps, just perhaps, realize that Garzón may not be the superhero he and his apologists claim to be.
Second, Garzón is not being judged by a far-right group: only the judges, well, judge. He’s been unanimously ordered to stand trial by the Supreme Court, after several appeals that were resolved against him with not even one dissenting opinion by any of the justices.
He explains this reason in detail — and offers several others in detail.
Go to the link and be sure to read this post in its entirety.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.