Tuesday, August 05, 2008

The Judicial Silly Season

It was a little bit like old times on Saturday with the noise surrounding the release of the ETA prisoner Iñaki de Juana Chaos. All the usual suspects gathered in Madrid to protest at the release, and it was inevitable that the target of the protests would be the government for not having “done enough” to keep De Juana Chaos locked up. What the government should have done in the view of these people is invent a legal pretext to stop him from going free, given that he has served his sentence and is entitled to be free. The new secretary general of the Partido Popular, Maria Dolores de Cospedal, showed up at the protest too although it was a sign of how things have changed in the last few months that she was also a target of criticism and abuse from some of those gathered.

That could not be the end of the matter, and sure enough the duty judge at the Audiencia Nacional in Madrid has now decided that a letter from De Juana Chaos to his supporters is sufficient grounds to open a fresh case against him for allegedly praising terrorism. The letter does no such thing, but in this situation the political requirements far outweigh any nonsense about what the law might say. The judge could easily have devoted his time this summer to doing something to reduce the chronic judicial backlog, but the fatal attraction of the De Juana Chaos case promises far more media attention. Sending De Juana Chaos back to jail will be undoubtedly popular amongst those who believe that someone’s freedom should be decided by opinion polls, newspaper editorials and political preferences. At the same time it promises to make the law look ridiculous in its vengeful pursuit of a single ETA prisoner whose relationship with that organisation is now said to be distant.

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