FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Persecution of Judge Garzon

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.

More articles by:

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

September 20, 2018
Michael Hudson
Wasting the Lehman Crisis: What Was Not Saved Was the Economy
John Pilger
Hold the Front Page, the Reporters are Missing
Kenn Orphan
The Power of Language in the Anthropocene
Paul Cox – Stan Cox
Puerto Rico’s Unnatural Disaster Rolls on Into Year Two
Rajan Menon
Yemen’s Descent Into Hell: a Saudi-American War of Terror
Russell Mokhiber
Nick Brana Says Dems Will Again Deny Sanders Presidential Nomination
Nicholas Levis
Three Lessons of Occupy Wall Street, With a Fair Dose of Memory
Steve Martinot
The Constitutionality of Homeless Encampments
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
The Aftershocks of the Economic Collapse Are Still Being Felt
Jesse Jackson
By Enforcing Climate Change Denial, Trump Puts Us All in Peril
George Wuerthner
Coyote Killing is Counter Productive
Mel Gurtov
On Dealing with China
Dean Baker
How to Reduce Corruption in Medicine: Remove the Money
September 19, 2018
Bruce E. Levine
When Bernie Sold Out His Hero, Anti-Authoritarians Paid
Lawrence Davidson
Political Fragmentation on the Homefront
George Ochenski
How’s That “Chinese Hoax” Treating You, Mr. President?
Cesar Chelala
The Afghan Morass
Chris Wright
Three Cheers for the Decline of the Middle Class
Howard Lisnoff
The Beat Goes On Against Protest in Saudi Arabia
Nomi Prins 
The Donald in Wonderland: Down the Financial Rabbit Hole With Trump
Jack Rasmus
On the 10th Anniversary of Lehman Brothers 2008: Can ‘IT’ Happen Again?
Richard Schuberth
Make Them Suffer Too
Geoff Beckman
Kavanaugh in Extremis
Jonathan Engel
Rather Than Mining in Irreplaceable Wilderness, Why Can’t We Mine Landfills?
Binoy Kampmark
Needled Strawberries: Food Terrorism Down Under
Michael McCaffrey
A Curious Case of Mysterious Attacks, Microwave Weapons and Media Manipulation
Elliot Sperber
Eating the Constitution
September 18, 2018
Conn Hallinan
Britain: the Anti-Semitism Debate
Tamara Pearson
Why Mexico’s Next President is No Friend of Migrants
Richard Moser
Both the Commune and Revolution
Nick Pemberton
Serena 15, Tennis Love
Binoy Kampmark
Inconvenient Realities: Climate Change and the South Pacific
Martin Billheimer
La Grand’Route: Waiting for the Bus
John Kendall Hawkins
Seymour Hersh: a Life of Adversarial Democracy at Work
Faisal Khan
Is Israel a Democracy?
John Feffer
The GOP Wants Trumpism…Without Trump
Kim Ives
The Roots of Haiti’s Movement for PetroCaribe Transparency
Dave Lindorff
We Already Have a Fake Billionaire President; Why Would We want a Real One Running in 2020?
Gerry Brown
Is China Springing Debt Traps or Throwing a Lifeline to Countries in Distress?
Pete Tucker
The Washington Post Really Wants to Stop Ben Jealous
Dean Baker
Getting It Wrong Again: Consumer Spending and the Great Recession
September 17, 2018
Melvin Goodman
What is to be Done?
Rob Urie
American Fascism
Patrick Cockburn
The Adults in the White House Trying to Save the US From Trump Are Just as Dangerous as He Is
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
The Long Fall of Bob Woodward: From Nixon’s Nemesis to Cheney’s Savior
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail