Spain: End of the road for Judge Garzón
10 February 2012
El País, El Mundo, ABC, Público
On February 9, Spain’s Supreme Court sentenced Baltasar Garzón to an eleven-year ban from the judiciary for having abused his power.
The former star judge was convicted of ordering illegal wiretaps as part of the investigation into the “Gürtel” corruption case implicating officials of the Popular Party (PP, in the government) in the Valencia region. The conviction, in fact, ends the career of the man who had become famous for arresting the former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.
The conviction also divides the Spanish press.
“The Supreme Court finishes with Garzón,” leads the centre-left newspaper El País on its front page. Challenging the decision, the paper writes that its purpose was to
neutralise Judge Garzón. [The decision] involves the expulsion from the judiciary of a judge who, whatever the opinion one may have of him, has rendered important services to society in the fight against terrorism, drug trafficking and organised crime, and one who has played a remarkable role in applying universal justice to the defence of human rights violated by dictatorships.
For its part, El Mundo points out the unanimity of the Supreme Court judges’ decision, which in its view is “very important, because it confirms that there were no ideological divides, but a shared legal criterion, which is reflected in the decision.” The conservative daily goes on to criticise Garzón for publishing a statement in which he called the decision “unjust and predetermined“:
At the height of paranoia, he argues that the Court's decision "eliminates all possibility of investigating corruption," as if the only way to do so would be by infringing constitutional guarantees. The statement exposes the megalomania of this man, who believes himself to be the victim of a universal conspiracy and permits himself the luxury of despising and insulting the Supreme Court.
The opinion is shared by another conservative daily, ABC:
Garzón has paid for his excesses: he has been his own victim. Believing that the end justified the means, he violated a sacred rule of the right of law, turning the investigation into an inquisitorial procedure. [...] It is now the turn of the Strasbourg Court, as he will now allow himself to exploit the international reputation that he has built so assiduously, more by means of spectacle than by his work as a judge [referring to a possible appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, to which Garzón may apply as a last resort].
Público, finally, concludes on its front page that Garzón has been “executed”. The daily sums up the split in opinion in a single sentence:
The left criticised the decision, and the right applauded it.