JUSTICE

Judges angered by pardon for policemen convicted of torture

More than 200 magistrates sign protest statement after government frees officers found guilty of beating up innocent man

Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón in Congress this week. / ULY MARTÍN

More than 200 judges across Spain have come out publicly to manifest their anger with the Popular Party (PP) government over its decision to pardon four Catalan police officers who were found guilty of torturing a man who they mistakenly believed was an assailant.

“The government’s decision is an improper one in a democracy; illegitimate and unethical. For that reason, we cannot just stand back and not raise our voices against the abuses committed in the right to pardon and warn of their effects, which are devastating,” reads a statement released by the judges.

Among those who signed the document are Supreme Court Justices Perfecto Andrés and Joaquín Giménez, and a senior member of the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ), Margarita Robles.

The four members of the Mossos d’Esquadra were convicted and sentenced in 2008 for torturing the suspect they had arrested. Their convictions had been upheld by the Supreme Court.

This pardon implies that there is no need to hand down any type of sentences”

In February, the Cabinet reduced their sentences to two years and gave them suspensions from the force rather than banning them for life as the court had ruled. It was a decision designed to prevent any of the four from serving time; in Spain jail terms of two years or less handed down to first-time offenders are habitually converted into suspended sentences.

A Barcelona provincial court, which advised the government that it was against the partial pardons, decided that the four officers must serve the remainder of their time in prison. In response the Cabinet last week decided on full pardons and agreed to give them fines.

“This pardon implies that there is no need to hand down any type of sentences,” the judges said in their statement. “There was no need for the government to hand down a double pardon.”

On July 27, 2006, Joan Salva, Manuel Farré, Fernando Cea and Jordi Perissé mistakenly identified Romanian citizen Lucian Paduraru, then 28, as a violent criminal. They waited for him outside his home but didn’t identify themselves as police officers. According to court testimony they beat him up, insulted him and even threatened to kill him by pushing the barrel of a gun inside his mouth.

In their statement, the judges make a specific reference to torture and pardons regarding these types of crimes. “This is one of the most hideous acts against a person’s dignity. The European Court of Human Right has condemned the Spanish government for not investigating these incidents. Now the government has taken one step backward. The courts get involved, investigate and convict but the government pardons. Of course, this will be difficult to explain to the European Court of Human Rights.”

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