Spare a thought today for Baltasar Garzón, one of Spain’s most honest and fearless judges.

Over the course of his career, Garzón has — at considerable risk to his own safety — pursued drug dealers, terrorists, rogue police operations, and those responsible for past dictatorships in Chile and Argentina. He has investigated crimes committed during Franco’s dictatorship, daring to look directly at a wound that has been left unhealed for decades. And he has worked to end corruption at high levels of provincial government in Valencia, which is home to some of the dirtiest politicians in Spain.

As it happens, those dirty politicians are members of the party now in power. That party also has historical ties to the Franco regime (its founder, Manuel Fraga, passed away just this week). There’s no great love for the jurist in the Partido Popular.

Garzón now finds himself on trial before the Spanish supreme court for abuse of power. (He also faces prosecution in two other cases.) The charges against him are related to wiretaps he approved in the course of the corruption investigation. This is a “private” trial — that is, government prosecutors have refused to support the charges against him. Among his many supporters — who include a large number of jurists at all levels — there is a feeling that the verdict has already been determined. Garzón himself has said that he thinks the supreme court judges want to get rid of him.

This is what passes for justice in Spain, after more than 35 years of democracy.

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