FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Persecution of Judge Garzon

by SAUL LANDAU

On September 11, 1973 (28 years before the World Trade Center-Pentagon attack), General Augusto Pinochet, leading a gang of treasonous officers, ordered Chilean air force jets to fire missiles at the Presidential Palace. By the end of the day Pinochet had seized power in a bloody, US-backed coup against the elected socialist government of Dr. Salvador Allende who died in the assault on the Palace.

In 1974, Pinochet ordered his secret police to assassinate his former boss, General Carlos Prats, Chile’s army chief, who lived in exile in Buenos Aires. A car bomb blew Prats and his wife six stories high.

In September 1975, another Pinochet foe and his wife got shot in Rome. Christian Democratic leader Bernardo Leighton survived but never fully recovered.

On September 21, 1976, Pinochet’s hit squad detonated a bomb placed under the car of Orlando Letelier, Allende’s last Defense Minister, exiled in Washington, D.C. The blast on Washington’s Embassy Row severed Letelier’s legs and also killed Ronni Moffitt, an American woman passenger and colleague of Letelier’s at the Institute for Policy Studies where both worked.

Two lead FBI agents investigating the case later affirmed publicly their certainty of Pinochet’s direct responsibility. Despite abundant proof of his guilt, successive Attorneys General did not indict him.

When he died in 2006 Pinochet faced 3,197 murder charges – number of proven assassinations; one of his accomplishments during his 17-year reign –1973-1990. (March 1991, Chilean Commission for Truth and Reconciliation)

In 1998, a smug and retired Pinochet, secure in the Amnesty he had granted himself and his fellow torturers and murders, traveled to England, visited his friend Margaret Thatcher, and then had back surgery. When he awoke from the anesthetic, a British policeman told him he was under arrest; a translator made sure he understood his rights.

Spanish Judge Baltazar Garzón signed the extradition order. Underlying this extraordinary arrest lay a groundwork of legal activity. When Spanish lawyer and former Allender adviser Juan Garces learned of Pinochet’s London trip, he convinced Judge Garzon, who had recently taken over the case, that sufficient evidence existed to ask British authorities to arrest Pinochet and request his extradition to stand trial in Spain and to freeze his assets so that his victims could receive some compensation. British authorities complied.

After16 months in custody, validated by England’s highest Court, the British government maneuvered with Washington and Santiago to free Pinochet on the pretext of mental unfitness for trial.

Garzon proceeded to follow the Pinochet case with indictments and prosecution other foreign nationals like Argentine navy officer Adolfo Scilingo for crimes against humanity during that country’s dirty war (dates). He also pursued high-ranking human-rights abusers in Guatemala and in Guantánamo.

In Spain, as a National Court judge he also, in the 1980s, opened investigations into Spain’s own questionable procedures in its fight against Basque separatists. What got him into trouble, however, derived from his re-opening of crimes committed during Spain’s 1936-39 civil war and the years of dictatorship that ensued. Almost 115,000 people had disappeared during Franco’s fascist regime; thousands were assassinated – with impunity for the criminals.

Garzon’s reputation as human rights defender did not protect him from — and indeed may have contributed to — the wrath of right wing judges, with ties to the old Franco regime. Garzon “challenged the very nerve centers of right wing political power,” said Juan Garces, “by going after corruption among the elite of Spain’s right wing party.” He re-opened the issue of “impunity granted by the very people who collaborated with or approved of the kidnappings and murders.” (Netherlands radio interview)

In 2010, Garzon was indicted for criminal abuse of power. A panel of pro-Franco judges declared Garzón of guilty of exceeding legal authority because he ordered police to record conversations between suspects in prison and their lawyers. Garzon argued the taping emerged directly from the charges against those in custody and their attorneys: corruption, and suspicion that the lawyers did money-laundering for their clients.

The prosecutor called Garzon’s actions “monstrous” and Garzon “some kind of Big Brother who thinks he can listen to everything.”

After hearing the guilty verdict, Garzón said: “This sentence, lacking in juridical basis or supporting evidence, eliminates any possibility of investigating corruption and its associated crimes. Instead, it makes room for impunity and, in its fervor to impugn one particular judge, crushes the independence of the entire Spanish judiciary.”

Perhaps Judge Garzon recalled W.H. Auden’s thought on September 1, 1939 when Nazi troops invaded Poland and World War II began. The fascists in Germany and Italy had also supported Franco. “The unmentionable odor of death offends the September night.”  Chileans remember that odo9r from September, 1973 when fascists destroyed their democratically elected government and went on a killing-torture rampage.

Because of the work Garzon and fellow human rights activists, like Garces, some sense of basic justice was restored to people who survived the wounds of military fascism.  In 2006, Chilean judge Judge Juan Guzman ordered divers to search for evidence relating to missing bodies of Pinochet victims in Chile. Guzman accumulated evidence about the whereabouts of the 1200 “disappeared” people – euphemism for avoiding paper trails for murder. No arrest records. No corpse! No crime!

Then the divers found evidence of human remains. The families of the disappeared had proof: Pinochet’s thugs had murdered their loved ones. Garzon’s persecutors now want to hide the Franco era crimes by removing the withering rays of light that this brave judge had shined on the odoriferous deeds.

Saul Landau is an Institute for Policy Studies fellow. His WILL THE REAL TERRORIST PLEASE STAND UP is on dvd (cinemalibrestore.com). Counterpunch published his BUSH & BOTOX WORLD.

SAUL LANDAU’s A BUSH AND BOTOX WORLD was published by CounterPunch / AK Press.

May 05, 2016
David L. Glotzer
Welcome to Fortified Europe: the Militarization of Europe’s Borders
Adam Szetela
Beyoncé’s “Formation” and the Boutique Activism of the Left
Bruce Lerro
Lost at Sea: Left Liberals Have No Party
Paul Cochrane
Hot Air in the Saudi Desert: a Kingdom in Descent?
Brian Terrell
My Visit to a Las Vegas Jail
Judith Deutsch
The Military’s “Securitization” of Climate Change
Phyllis Bennis
Kunduz Bombing: Proof the Pentagon Should Not Be Allowed to Investigate Itself for War Crimes
Chad Nelson
When Compassion is Terrorism: Animal Rights in a Post-911 World
Dan Arel
Making Sanders’ Dream a Reality Through Political Activism
Kent Paterson
Ten Years Later: Reflections on the Legacies of Immigrant Spring
Serge Halimi
Why Firefighters are Against Free Trade
Andrew Stewart
Green Bernie or Green Party Machine?
Binoy Kampmark
Yuri Gagarin in Space: the Politics of Cosmic Discovery
Hayes Rowan
This Naming of Things
May 04, 2016
Kshama Sawant
It’s Not About Bernie: Why We Can’t Let Our Revolution Die in Philadelphia
Conn Hallinan
Baiting the Bear: Russia and NATO
Joshua Frank
Hanford’s Leaky Nuke Tanks and Sick Workers, A Never-Ending Saga
Paul Craig Roberts
TIPP: Advancing American Imperialism
Ted Rall
Hillary to Bernie Supporters: Don’t Vote for Me!
Eric Draitser
Hillary Clinton and Wall Street’s Neoliberal War on Latin America
Leslie Scott
The Story of Jill Stein: Putting People, Peace and the Planet Before Profits
Ann Garrison
Building the Greens Into a Mass Party: Interview with Bruce Dixon
Tom Clifford
Crying Rape: Trump’s China-Bashing
Lawrence Davidson
Getting Rid of Bad Examples: Andrew Jackson & Woodrow Wilson
Ellen Brown
Bank of North Dakota Soars Despite Oil Bust: A Blueprint for California?
Nelson Valdes
Is Fidel Castro Outside or Part of Mainstream Thinking? A Selection of Quotes
Jesse Jackson
Don’t Send Flint Down the Drain: Fix It!
Nathan Riley
Help Bernie Keep His Halo
Rivera Sun
Remembering Nonviolent History: Freedom Rides
Clancy Sigal
Rachel and the Isolationists: How Maddow Blew It
Laura Finley
Changing the Conversation About “The Woman Card”
CJ Hopkins
Coming this Summer … Revenge of the Bride of Sophie’s Choice
May 03, 2016
Gary Leupp
Hillary Clinton’s Foreign Policy Resumé: What the Record Shows
Michèle Brand – Arun Gupta
What is the “Nuit Debout”?
Chuck Churchill
The Failures of Capitalism, Donald Trump and Right Wing Terror
Dave Marsh
Bernie and the Greens
John Wight
Zionism Should be on Trial, Not Ken Livingstone
Rev. John Dear
A Dweller in Peace: the Life and Times of Daniel Berrigan
Patrick Cockburn
Saudi Arabia’s Great Leap Forward: What Would Mao Think?
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Electoral Votes Matter: Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders vs Donald Trump
Chris Gilbert
Venezuela Today: This Must Be Progress
Pepe Escobar
The Calm Before the Coming Global Storm
Ruth Fowler
Intersecting with the Identity Police (Or Why I Stopped Writing Op-Eds)
Victor Lasa
The Battle Rages on in Spain: the Country Prepares for Repeat Elections in June
Jack Rasmus
Is the US Economy Heading for Recession?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail