Freelance Spain
Spaniards for the 21st century

Baltasar Garzón
Spanish investigating judge

Baltasar Garzón was born in 1955 in Villa de Torres (Jaén), in southern Spain. He became a provincial judge at 23, and joined the National Court at age 32.
Garzón is one of six investigating judges for Spain's National Court. His function is to investigate the cases that are assigned to him by the court, gathering evidence and evaluating whether the case should be brought to trial. He does not try the cases himself.

In 1993, Garzón took leave of absence to run for a seat in Spanish parliament on the socialist ticket. Garzón, whose piping voice belies his thick-shouldered build, turned out to be a poor public speaker, but his support proved useful for the socialists. Garzón won a seat, but it soon became obvious that the embattled socialist party had taken him on board mainly as window dressing, and he quit politics and returned to his former post a year after the election, perhaps disillusioned at the socialists' failure to implement promised reforms, although according to some reports he was miffed because he was not chosen for Justice Minister.
As investigating magistrate he has been in charge of some of Spain's high-profile cases, involving drug trafficking, corruption in high places, the Basque terrorist group ETA, and the GAL, the shady hit-squad set up by officials within the government to fight a dirty war against the Basque separatists. As a result of this last case several of Garzón's former political allies ended up in jail.

Garzón rose to prominence as an international figure with his indictment of leaders of the former Chilean military junta, including the ailing dictator Augusto Pinochet, on charges of genocide, terrorism and torture during the 1976-1983 dictatorship, following an invetigation assigned to him by Spain's National Court. He issued an international arrest warrant when he learned that Pinochet was in London for a medical check-up. British police arrested Pinochet in October 1998. Pinochet was held under house arrest in London, pending a decision on his extradition to Spain, until March 2000, when the British Foreign Minister decided to release him because the dictator was deemed unfit to stand trial.

Garzón has also played a key role in indicting suspected Basque terrorists. In May 1998, he disbanded KAS (Koordinora Arbetzale Sozialista), an association of indepedence groups, on the grounds that it was in fact a strategic arm of the ETA organization. Two months later he closed down the newspaper, Egin, regarded as the mouthpiece for ETA, a move which raised questions concerning press freedom in Spain. In September 2000, in an operation involving 300 policemen, he ordered the arrest of members of Ekin, an organization seen as the successor of KAS.

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