The controversy over crowd and police actions during the demonstration 25S in front of the lower house of parliament, El Congreso, has taken on a different facet, thanks to the findings of the judge that tried the protestors. Not only did he consider that no prosecutable act had taken place, in contradiction to what the Public Prosecutor considers, but that what happened was a result of the the decadency of the political class.
Juez Pedraz is held in high esteem by his colleagues and is a personal friend of Juez Baltazar Garzon and is a firm believer in international justice; he personally went to Baghdad to investigate the killing of a Spanish cameraman by an American tank in 2003.
Reaction from the ruling party’s ranks wasn’t long in coming and proved to be completely unacceptable to the Spanish judicial body: the PP parliamentary spokesman, Rafael Hernando called the judge a pijo ácrata. (spoilt rich-kid, anarchist libertarian). When the top judiciary body, El Consejo General de Poder Judicial, issued an irate statement that stated that while politicians could disagree with court findings, it was beyond acceptable for politicians to resort to insulting judges when the findings are not to their liking. The CGPJ said that in a case where somebody did not agree with the findings made by a judge, there are mechanisms – an appeal, to express one’s disapproval.
The PP spokesman, withdrew the insult, apologising for any offence felt, although he later changed his position to say that the words pijo ácrata were to describe the situation; not the judge, which did not gain much credence.
The pseudo-syndicate Manos Limpias – the same right-wing movement that lead a controversial witch hunt against Juez Baltazar Garzon, lost little time in denouncing the judge before the CGPJ for his disdainful criticism of the riot police. Manos Limpias considers that the comment concerning the Spanish body politic serious is a disciplinary offence punishable by a 6,000-euro fine.
Criticism for his frank remarks has also come from the left, and even the national Ombudsman, Soledad Becerril, who said with a certain irony that the judge should ‘show more respect.’
Close friends had warned the judge that by including those words he would be looking for trouble, but it appears that the judge went ahead regardless, out of conviction.
Here follows a bit of background information on Juez Pedraz: this 54-year-old judge from Salamanca is considered an excellent judge by his peers, which is why he was recently re-elected to the position of head of the central courts of the Audiencia Nacional.
Despite pressure from high-ranking US Diplomats on the previous socialist government under Zapatero, coupled with pressure from the top politically appointed judicial post, Public Prosecutor, he went ahead and travelled to Baghdad to stage a reconstruction of the events that lead up to death of cameraman José Couso when a tank crew shelled his hotel room where all the international press were known to be staying. He considered that the tank crew had no trouble recognising that their target on the hotel room balcony was using a camera and not a weapon, as they claimed. The conservative Aznar Government tried to cover over the incident and the Zapatero Government tried to do the same, but the judge would not be intimidated and went ahead with the investigation.
Editorial note: It certainly appears that the judge is not in anybody’s pocket on either side of the political spectrum… which could prove his undoing. Whilst court findings should not be a platform for political (or anti-political) comment, the judge is something of a hero to the man on the street for stating so clearly what everyone considers to be the truth: growing political decadence on the rampage in Spain.