Thursday, December 2, 2010

Garzon and the American Embassy Cables

El Pais has been offering a-leak-a-day coverage of the infamous US embassy cables. They provide a fascinating picture about the degree of political interference in the judicial process in Spain. I just wish they provided the original English memos, as it is sometimes difficult to figure out the exact phrase used by the Americans.

These cables make it clear why there was such a rush to push Garzon out of the judiciary. His refusal to drop the Guantanamo case was causing serious friction with the US government. There is some minor appreciation in some of the memos on Garzon’s anti-terrorism work, but it appears that embarrassing the US government is unforgivable.

It’s pretty amazing to read Chief Prosecutor Javier Zaragoza’s three step plan on how to get Garzon to drop the case.

Legal Advisor met May 4 with National Court Chief Prosecutor Javier Zaragoza (protect) to discuss Garzon’s latest move. Zaragoza said he had challenged Garzon directly and personally on this latest case, asking if he was trying to drum up more speaking fees. Garzon replied he was doing it for the record only and would let it die. Zaragoza opined that Garzon, having gotten his headline, would soon drop the matter. In case he does not, Zaragoza has a strategy to force his hand. Zaragoza’s strategy hinges on the older case in which Garzon investigated terrorism complaints against some Guantanamo detainees. In connection with those earlier investigations, Garzon ordered the Spanish police to visit Guantanamo and collect evidence against the suspected terrorists. Zaragoza reasons that he can use this fact to embarrass Garzon into dropping this latest case by suggesting Garzon in some sense condoned the U.S. approach to detainee issues circa 2004. Garzon took no action in 2004 when the suspects returned to Spain and reported to him their alleged mistreatment. Zaragoza said that if Garzon could not be shamed into dropping the case, then he would formally recommend Garzon do so and appeal if Garzon ignored him.

Key to Zaragoza’s plans is the fact that there is yet another Guantanamo-related case underway in the National Court. That case relates to so-called CIA flights carrying detainees to Guantanamo via Spain and is being heard by investigating Judge Ismael Moreno. The police officers whom Garzon sent to Guantanamo years ago are expected to testify before Moreno this month, and Zaragoza hopes their testimony will put on record Garzon’s role in the earlier cases.

Zaragoza is also banking on the fact that Garzon is already in hot water over his excessive zeal in another case. A few months ago, Garzon opened an investigation into Spanish civil war atrocities. Garzon persisted in his investigation in the face of all advice to the contrary from prosecutors. The case was finally wrestled away from Garzon, but there is now a criminal complaint against him in the Supreme Court, alleging abuse of authority. That complaint has the support of Spanish prosecutors. Zaragoza doubts Garzon will risk a second such complaint.


We believe Zaragoza is acting in good faith and playing a constructive role. Certainly he knows Garzon better than we do, having sparred with him before. Nevertheless, we do not share his optimism that this problem will go away anytime soon. Having started, it is hard for us to see why the publicity-loving Garzon would shut off his headline-generating machine unless forced to do so. And forcing him to do so could take months. We also fear Garzon -- far from being deterred by threats of disciplinary action -- may welcome the chance for martyrdom, knowing the case will attract worldwide attention.

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