The attempt by sectors of the Spanish judiciary to end the career of Baltasar Garzón continues to advance. For the judges of the Supreme Court it wasn't enough that they had already admitted cases against Garzón from the extreme right and some lawyers with a grudge against the owner of the Banco Santander. Something more was needed, especially as the efforts to suggest Garzón was effectively bribed by the Santander to give some lectures in New York have not gone particularly well. Best not to involve foreigners at all, and so the willingness to admit any complaint against the judge now means that none other than Francisco Correa, the principal accused in the Gürtel corruption case, has been allowed to present a new one.
That Correa, who liked to be called Don Vito, should be allowed to join the Garzón witch hunt is an indication of the all comers welcome policy being employed when it comes to nailing Baltasar. Only ETA seem to have been left out of the chase for some reason. Moreover the latest development has caused great excitement within the Partido Popular as it offers the prospect of sympathetic, and overwhelmingly conservative, judges delivering what could be a fatal blow to the progress of Gürtel. The complaint against Garzón over Gürtel concerns the decision to intercept conversations between lawyers and some of the accused, an issue which is also being considered this week by the highest regional court in Madrid. If El País is to be believed the judges in that court are currently inclining towards declaring the interceptions to be illegal.
Such a verdict would seem to justify the action taken against Garzón but the situation is not so simple. The argument behind the interception of these conversations is that some of the lawyers are said to be involved with the accused, especially in the laundering of the proceeds. The legal situation is far from clear and the judge in Madrid who took over the investigation from where Garzón left it regards the interception as being legally justified. As with the case over the victims of Franco's repression, we are left with the curious situation of Garzón being accused of exceeding his powers whilst the other judges who agree with his positions are not accused of doing anything wrong. Such an inconsistent situation, together with the almost simultaneous admission of three separate cases against Garzón, supports the conclusion that what is happening is much more about the man than the details of the cases themselves.
Such a conclusion will of course be strenuously denied by all concerned. The president of the Consejo General del Poder Judicial (CGPJ), the judicial governing body, has already spoken out against criticism of the Garzón case. The trouble is that when judges try to stop anyone else commenting on their actions it's almost always because such actions go beyond the run of the mill functioning of the judiciary. Sadly, the same people who now call for judicial independence to be respected did nothing in the face of the determined attempts to sabotage the trial of those accused of perpetrating the Madrid bombings, to name just one recent example. But then such selective criteria brings us to the heart of the problem, one that has been highlighted by Garzón himself in his attempt to prevent the CGPJ from suspending him before he has even been formally accused.
Garzón has challenged the right of three members of the CGPJ to sit in judgement of him, and in the process has spotlighted just how politicised that institution is. First off we have Fernando de Rosa, vice-president of the CGPJ and formerly in charge of justice in the Valencian administration led by Francisco Camps and his very fine suits. De Rosa held a well reported meeting with Camps just after Garzón accused the latter of receiving gifts from Don Vito and friends. After that meeting De Rosa issued a public warning to Garzón not to cross the "red line" in his Gürtel investigation. In other words, the very model of judicial independence. De Rosa has wisely decided to abstain from the meeting that will decide Garzón's future, but he has done so in a way which avoided discussion of the reasons why he should not be present.
Secondly we have Margarita Robles, and here we start to get an understanding of the alliance of convenience between the right wing defenders of the nation on the Supreme Court and some others more commonly associated with the left. Robles served in the administration of Felipe Gonzalez at the same time as Garzón during his very brief political career. In what could be considered his greatest error, Garzón fell into the trap laid by Gonzalez in an attempt to stop the judicial investigation of the GAL case involving government support for a dirty war against ETA. Finally realizing that he was not being offered what he hoped for, Garzón subsequently resumed his career as a judge and took up the GAL case with renewed enthusiasm. This made him many enemies in the Gonzalez administration at the same time as it made him a hero for the Partido Popular and the right-wing press. How times change, but Robles is said to be a close ally of Luciano Varela, who is preparing the case against Garzón for the Supreme Court. Robles has also decided to abstain following the challenge, having been the main mover in favour of immediate suspension for the judge.
Last but by no means least we have judge Gemma Gallego, who has rejected any suggestion that she should not decide on the issue of Garzón keeping his job. Judge Gallego is known above all for being the judge who launched that most ridiculous of judicial processes, the infamous "boric acid" case. She had several senior police officers facing a potential prison sentence over what was nothing more than a set up devised by El Mundo and other supporters of the conspiracy theories over the Madrid bombings. The case, if it deserves such a title, was resoundingly rejected by Garzón who saw through it. But the conspiracy theorists manoeuvred to get it into the hands of Gallego, who did her political duty and got her political reward. It's arguable, after such actions, whether she was fit to continue as a judge at all; but here she is deciding the futures of others on the supreme governing body of the Spanish judiciary. I rest my case your honour.