Friday, 30 April 2010

Spanish Protests for Garzon & Victims of Franco

LAST SATURDAY, tens of thousands of protesters turned out on the streets of 21 Spanish towns and cities in support of Judge Baltasar Garzon, who faces suspension from the Spanish bench for having called for the opening of more than a dozen graves of people who were presumed to be Franco's victims, and for demanding the investigation of the 'crimes' of the Franco regime. By breaching the terms of a 1977 amnesty created during the transition to democracy, some magistrates argue that he overstepped his judicial mandate: in English law this would mean he acted ultra vires - beyond his powers.

Garzon's supporters claim he is being pursued by a right-wing gang, including member of the 'Fascist' Falange party and 'Manos Limpias' - a pseudo-sindicato (trade union), that have taken out writs against him. It was Garzon who, some years ago, forced the British Home Secretary, Jack Straw, to act against Pinochet in this country. His actions on behalf of the victims of Franco has divided the Spaniards. The Spanish judges are highly political, and Garzon is no exception. Last Saturday, many of the demonstrators were calling for 'Mas juces como Garzon' ('More Judges like Garzon') and 'Garzon amigo, Espanaesta contigo!' (Garzon old mate, Spain is with you!').

Famous actors and actresses, like Juan Diego Botto, Jose Sacristan, Pilar Bardem and Charo Lopez, world famous film director Pedro Almodovar, and singer, Miguel Rios, backed the protest.

This is happening at a time when the Tameside Arts & Events Department in Greater Manchester, has recently 'deferred indefinitely' an application from Tameside Trade Union Council for a commemoration for James Keogh, a local youth who was killed in Spain by Italian troops supporting General Franco over 70 years ago, while fighting in the International brigade for freedom and democracy for the Spanish people [see Northern Voices 11]. This week, the English Judge, Lord Bingham said on Radio 4's 'Start the Week' that, in his view, the best judges are those that are unknown to the public. This shows us the difference between the Spanish mentality and that of the English: the Spaniard generally is more forthright, blunter and more open than his English counterpart; the English are more reserved, hypocritical and more restrained in the way they go about things. This thought possibly encouraged Christopher Caldwell in the FT to write: 'For all its impressive progress over the past three decades, Spain remains a country with an unsettled - and, by western standards of non-partisanship and impartiality, unimpressive - judicial tradition.' And referring to Garzon, he writes: 'It is no gain for international peace when a freelancer operating in such a system is permitted to make foreign policy for a dozen European countries, all of which have a better human rights record than Spain's over the last 60 years, as Garzon was permitted to do in the Pinochet case.'

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