Garzón sentenced to 11 years suspension; decision met with outrage

February 9, 2012

Garzón on trial at the Spanish Supreme Court. Photo AFP.

Judge Garzón has been sentenced to an 11 year suspension and a 2,500 euro fine for prevarication–knowingly overstepping his judicial authority–in relation to his investigation of a wide-ranging corruption ring involving the Valencia branch of the ruling conservative Partido Popular. The seven-judge Supreme Court tribunal in charge of the case voted unanimously to find the judge guilty. This decision (pdf), which cannot be appealed, effectively ends his career. The ruling  has immediately sparked outrage worldwide; a mass protest meeting has been called for tonight in Spain’s central square, Sol. The widespread and well-grounded perception that Judge is seeing his career axed for political and personal reasons has already damaged the legitimacy and reputation of the Spanish judiciary at home and abroad. (See also coverage in the English-language edition of El País; previous Volunteer coverage here.)

This is the first of three cases against the judge before the Supreme Court. One of the other two still pending, in which the charge is also prevarication, centers on the Judge’s decision to investigate the crimes of Francoism. That case–in which the charges are being brought by an extreme right-wing organization, while the Court’s prosecutor has called for a complete exoneration of the Judge– closed yesterday with the Judge’s final statement; a decision is expected in the next twenty days.

The wiretap case–which centered on Garzón’s decision to listen in on the conversations between jailed suspects and their lawyers, whom he suspected of being instrumental in a money-laundering scheme–was arguably the least controversial of the three in judicial terms. But even in this case there was ample indication that the charges had little merit and were part of a politically and personally motivated attempt to end the Judge’s career. For example, the wiretaps in question were ordered by the police, approved by the prosecutor’s office, and extended by the judge who took over the case for Garzón. Meanwhile, none of these other parties have been charged with any wrongdoing. In addition, the Spanish law is notoriously vague on the legality of wiretapping client-lawyer conversations; the practice has been used in past criminal investigations and never resulted in any charges of prevarication before. Ironically–to many, scandalously–Garzón is the first person to be sentenced in relation to the PP corruption case.


2 Responses to “ Garzón sentenced to 11 years suspension; decision met with outrage ”

  1. Antonio Castillo on February 9, 2012 at 9:54 am

    I have read all the proceedings first hand, all the appeals (since 2008). I am a Spanish linguist, translator and interpreter, and I know my mother language well. I have read the law and I don’t need a lawyer to have it explained to me. Garzón has acted at all times in accordance with the law. This is crystal clear to me and to many. Why has he been sentenced? This was a hunt. I am saddened by the fact that he was sentenced by a unanimous vote of all seven judges. There was not one just man among them. The thieves have got away with it and have created a serious precedent for the benefit of future thieves.
    How can we expect Garzón to have a fair trial on the Franco’s victims case?

  2. Jose Ramon Ruiz on February 26, 2012 at 3:19 am

    Well, Antonio, if you don’t need any lawyer, perhaps what you really need more is the understanding that Garzon, like anyone in a balanced democratic system, cannot pretend to be God, even if he enjoys the status of “Wonder Judge” that the media and other mileaux gave him. Spain suffers all kinds of conflicts many of which derive from undergoing such extreme changes during the last decades and one of them. Fundamentally we suffer the total absence of a basic concept such as “accountability”. The numberless instances of out-of-control actions, decisions, etc. on the part of people on the Right or the Left illustrate such a lack of mechanisms of social control. You are a translator and interpreter. I am sociologist with American degrees that returned 34 years ago to Spain to suffer the ills of a society punished by History. To me, Garzon reflects egocentrism and an authoritarian personality.He is the product of an authoritarian and rebelious culture. No sane society needs of individual “saviors” (military, judges, whatever) to prosper. Spain stands today as a rather disunited society and that is the worst thing that can happen to it.