Wednesday, January 26

The Supreme Court declares Judge Baltasar Garzón’s sentence completed

The Supreme Court has certified that Baltasar Garzón has served his sentence. In one car, the Criminal Chamber has declared its criminal responsibility extinguished after having completed in May its 11-year sentence of disqualification imposed by those same judges for a crime of prevarication committed by tapping the conversations between imprisoned defendants from the Gürtel and your lawyers. The magistrate, who for years has run his own law firm, can now put the robe back on if he wishes.

The UN Human Rights Committee concludes that Garzón was disqualified in an “arbitrary process”

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Baltasar Garzón (Jaén, 1955) was the first judge to investigate the Gürtel plot of corruption that, to this day, continues to give convictions against the business ball of Francisco Correa, the clientelistic network of public positions of the Popular Party and against the own conservative training. From the central investigating court 5 of the National High Court, he directed the operation that in February 2009 led to the head of the plot and arrested almost 40 people, including businessmen, lawyers, figureheads and mayors and councilors of the PP.

Three years later he was the one on the bench. The Supreme Court condemned him in 2012 because shortly after the outbreak of the operation it ordered to listen to and record the communications that Francisco Correa, Pablo Crespo and Antoine Sánchez had with their lawyers from the Soto del Real prison. The magistrate and the Police suspected that the three continued to commit crimes from prison through their lawyers and the Supreme Court sentenced him after defining his performance as “unacceptable.”

Eleven years of disqualification that took him out of court and began to run on February 9, 2012 – just 3 years after the arrests – and ended on May 1, 2021. It was finally a few weeks ago, last November 25, when the criminal chamber has issued the final order with a writing in which it agrees to “declare the criminal responsibility extinguished” of the magistrate. A resolution signed, among others, by the rapporteur of the sentence that convicted him and three other magistrates who were part of the court: Miguel Colmenero, Manuel Marchena, Andrés Martínez Arrieta and Juan Ramón Berdugo.

The order is a mandatory formality in the follow-up of a conviction, whether of jail or disqualification or both, and it brings this situation to the attention of the Central Registry of Prisoners and Rebels of the Ministry of Justice. In practice, this implies that, seven months after having paid off his debt with the Justice, Baltasar Garzón can request re-entry into the judicial career if he so wishes. In a recent interview with the newspaper El País ensures that, for the moment, has not made a decision on the matter.

The sentence of the Supreme Court included, in addition to 11 years of disqualification for prevarication, a fine of 2,520 euros and was later confirmed by the Constitutional Court. That same year, 2012, the court of guarantees decided to reject the magistrate’s appeal for protection, which is why it did not even examine the merits of his claims. The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg also rejected his appeal and the judge could only wait to serve his sentence.

There was an international body that agreed with him, although that had no practical effect on his conviction for prevarication. Last August, the United Nations Human Rights Committee established that the sentence that convicted Garzón was “arbitrary” and gave the Spanish State a period of 180 days to erase his records and compensate him. For several years the Supreme Court, in any case, has established that a ruling from this body does not have the power to get Spanish magistrates to review their own judgments as the judgments of the Strasbourg Court or the Superior Court of Justice do. of the European Union.

Almost a decade after his conviction, the legacy of that first phase of investigation of the Gürtel plot has resulted in a still growing number of sentences, all convictions for now, for the corrupt activity of this group of businessmen who lived in symbiosis with the Popular Party. From the final judgment of ‘Época I’ that condemned the PP for benefiting from the plot in Majadahonda and Pozuelo de Alarcón to the most recent of the National Court that has done the same in the case of the payment of the reform of the headquarters of Genoa 13 with money from a ‘box B’ which, to this day, is no longer an accusation but a proven fact.

The three causes of Garzón

Baltasar Garzón entered the judiciary in 1981 and seven years later he was already serving as investigating court 5 of the National High Court after passing through Villacarrillo, Vitoria and Almería. At that stage, he took charge of important operations against drug trafficking such as Nécora and Pitón against drug traffickers such as Laureano Oubiña, Marcial Dorado, Manuel Charlín or Sito Miñanco. In 1994 he led the investigation into the Antiterrorist Liberation Groups (GAL) that ended with the convictions of Barrionuevo and Vera and in 1998 ordered the arrest of the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.

In the 1990s, he briefly left the judiciary to occupy a seat in the Congress of Deputies for the PSOE and be a Government Delegate for the National Plan on Drugs. And in the last 15 years he has had two other legal cases opened and filed apart from the wiretapping of the Gürtel plot: the courses in New York and the investigation into the crimes of the Franco regime.

The first case was filed by prescription and without reaching, therefore, a trial. Judge Marchena wrote in a car that Garzón could have committed a bribery crime by obtaining more than a million dollars in sponsorships for courses at New York University agreed with Spanish companies between 2005 and 2006. Companies that, according to the magistrate, paid in exchange for obtaining favorable treatment in the National Court.

The second case came after a complaint by Manos Limpias, a union whose leader, Miguel Bernad, has recently been convicted of extorting banks in the AUSBANC case. Garzón sat on the bench of the Supreme Court accused of opening a case against the Franco regime despite the validity of the Amnesty Law of 1977. The Supreme Court, a few days after convicting him of the illegal wiretapping by Gürtel, chose to acquit him.

The nullity of the telephone taps that he launched in the Soto del Real prison did not translate into the nullity of the entire case. In various rulings both the National Court and the Supreme Court have rejected that this nullity affects the rest of the investigation. The Supreme Court said, for example, in its first final judgment on the case: “The nullity takes place at the beginning of the investigation, the lawyers who intervene being different from those who participated in the oral trial, without the interference declared void allowing know any situation that affects “the defense of Francisco Correa.