Saturday, April 24, 2010

Spain / Spanish Civil War

Charismatic Judge Who Pursued Spain's Fascist Assassins Finds Himself on Trial
By Giles Tremlett
The Observer, April 25, 2010
"The crowd gathered outside Madrid's national court was loud and angry. 'The world has been turned upside down,' they cried. 'The fascists are judging the judge!' Some carried photographs of long-dead relatives, killed by rightwing death squads in Spain's brutal civil war in the 1930s. Others bore placards bearing the name of the hero they wanted to save, the controversial 'superjudge' Baltasar Garzón. Pedro Romero de Castilla carried a picture of his grandfather, Wenceslao -- a former stationmaster taken away from his home in the western city of Mérida and shot by a death squad at the service of Generalísimo Francisco Franco's rightwing military rebels 74 years ago. The family have never found his body. Garzón, he explained, had dared to investigate the atrocities of 36 years of Franco's dictatorship and now, as a result, he faces trial for allegedly abusing his powers. 'My grandfather's case is one that Garzón wanted to investigate,' he said. 'He's a brave and intelligent judge, but now the right are out to get him.'
Police tried to herd Romero and his fellow protesters away, but 400 of them marched to nearby Calle de Génova and brought traffic to a standstill. It was a taste of the anger being expressed daily across Spain, with tens of thousands of people due to march in the country last night. Garzón still works at the national court, stepping out of his bomb-proof car every morning and climbing the courthouse steps to deal with cases involving terrorism, political corruption, international drug-trafficking and human rights cases. Soon, however, the hyperactive investigating magistrate who shot to global fame by ordering the 1998 arrest of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in London will have his cases taken away from him. Just a hundred yards across a square, stern-faced judges at the supreme court plan to suspend Garzón next month. The temporary suspension will last while they decide whether he deliberately ran roughshod over Spain's laws by opening an investigation into the deaths of 113,000 Spaniards executed by Franco's men during and after the civil war. If they find him guilty -- and there are signs that they intend to -- his career will be over. The irony of that will be lost on few. The only man to have been punished because of Franco's crimes will be Judge Garzón himself. 'If that happens, the reaction will be furious,' warns one of the demonstrators outside the National Court, who meet there every day at 8pm. 'The assassins will have won.' Spain's most charismatic judge leaves few people cold. Many colleagues loathe him and envy his status. They see him as a capricious abuser of the law. 'Judge Garzón has come to see himself as exceptional, losing sight of himself as just one more judge in the Spanish judicial system, bound by the laws,' said Jesús Zarzalejos, a law professor at Madrid's Complutense University. Others see the bespectacled judge as a tireless and imaginative defender of justice. 'The other judges are critical of him because they would never dare do the things he has done,' said Carlos Jiménez Villarejo, formerly Spain's chief anti-corruption prosecutor. 'The reaction is corporativist and unacceptable,' complains another former public prosecutor, José María Mena. 'If he was a tame, lazy judge, he wouldn't have these sorts of problems.' [...]"

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