No Comment — February 9, 2012, 4:30 pm

Franco is still dead…

… but his spirit seems to have inspired a courtroom drama in Madrid the past few weeks. Baltasar Garzón—the crusading investigative judge who once sought the arrest of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, probed crimes against humanity in Central America, exposed massive corruption in public-works projects in Spain, and tried to open the lid on the mass killings of the Franco era—was himself placed in the dock, accused of misuse of his judicial powers. In the end little was left to chance in the rush to destroy him, an effort that brought into alignment the many powerful figures he had offended: the now-governing conservative Partido Popular, which was richly embarrassed by the corruption disclosures of the Garzón-led Gürtel investigation; the United States government, which was angered by his pursuit of a torture investigation focusing on Guantánamo and was openly working for his removal; the heirs of the Franco era, who were whipped into a state of hysteria about the prospect of an investigation into the mass murders of that era.

Even Spain’s leftists and liberals seemed uneasy with the quixotic and sometimes politically tin-eared jurist. Only a ragtag group of human-rights advocates and bar associations from around the Hispanic world stood with Garzón, remembering how he had stood with them against the atrocity crimes of dictatorships, which the polite and the powerful preferred simply to ignore. Now Garzón stands convicted of abuse of power, in comically politicized proceedings that he is not permitted to appeal.

The Guardian reports:

Garzón’s career effectively came to a dramatic end on Thursday as he began an 11-year suspension for illegally wiretapping conversations between remand prisoners and their lawyers in a corruption case involving the prime minister, Mariano Rajoy’s People’s party (PP).

Human-rights advocates, generally eager to press for the procedural rights of the accused in criminal cases, acknowledge that Garzón seems to have exceeded his authority, even as they express puzzlement about how judicially reviewed and approved surveillance can be a grave offense. (The thrust of human-rights protection is, of course, aimed at insuring that it is judicially reviewed.) Count that a special flourish of the Spanish legal system, enforced with special vehemence in order to shield compromised leaders of Spain’s governing party. The irony of this action lies in the still more bizarre fact that the political figures whose corruption Garzón convincingly exposed remain at liberty, while the furor of Spain’s criminal-justice system was turned against their accuser.

Reed Brody, who observed the proceedings for Human Rights Watch, remarked, “This is disappointing but not surprising because the knives were out for him. The accumulation of criminal charges against him suggests a vendetta for his handling of cases involving vested interests, and convicting him for wiretaps was certainly a more elegant way to get rid of him than convicting him for investigating atrocities.”

Although Spanish procedure denies Garzón the right to appeal the decision, his attorneys have promised to take the matter to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

There is little doubt that Garzón’s accusers have caused him some measure of embarrassment. But in the eyes of many around the world, the proceedings against him provide compelling evidence that the legacy of Generalísimo Francisco Franco is alive in Spain today.

Share
Single Page

More from Scott Horton:

No Comment, Six Questions June 4, 2014, 8:00 am

Uncovering the Cover Ups: Death Camp in Delta

Mark Denbeaux on the NCIS cover-up of three “suicides” at Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp

From the June 2014 issue

The Guantánamo “Suicides,” Revisited

A missing document suggests a possible CIA cover-up

No Comment March 28, 2014, 12:32 pm

Scott Horton Debates John Rizzo on Democracy Now!

On CIA secrecy, torture, and war-making powers

Get access to 164 years of
Harper’s for only $39.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

August 2014

The End of Retirement

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Octopus and Its Grandchildren

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Francis and the Nuns

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Return of the Strongman

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Post
“Evidence of a chill was plain. People in Hailey spoke to me about Bergdahl in low voices, as if about a death.”
Fox & Friends, July 6, 2014
Article
The Seductive Catastrophe·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“The world’s leaders were moved by a populace fused into a forward phalanx, were shaken by a tidal wave of militancy jubilantly united.”
Photograph courtesy Mary Evans Picture Library
Post
The Glitch in the Video-Game Graveyard·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“From the nerd squabbles of Internet discussion threads rose an urban legend that culminated in a film that hinges on digging through my town’s trash.”
Illustration (detail) by Timothy Taranto
Article
What the Camera Saw·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“They shot him behind the left ear, and he fell.”
Article
Bounty·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“If I’d been one of the unprepared, I’d be desperate, too.”
Illustration (detail) by Simon Pemberton

Rolls of toilet paper Chicago’s city government has produced this year from recycled City Hall wastepaper:

19,000

Two thirds of U.S. teenagers experience uncontrollable rage.

Russia lost, then regained, contact with a satellite carrying five geckos sent to copulate in zero gravity.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

In Praise of Idleness

By

I hope that after reading the following pages the leaders of the Y. M. C. A. will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain.

Subscribe Today