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UNIVERSAL JUSTICE

Eight more drug-trafficking suspects freed by High Court

Case involving hashish smugglers shelved by Judge Bermúdez following government reforms

A loophole in the government’s reforms of the universal justice law has forced High Court Judge Javier Gómez Bermúdez to release eight suspected drug traffickers. In his writ, the magistrate also shelved the entire case, which involved the investigation of a 12-ton haul of hashish that was seized on March 16 from a boat with a Sierra Leone flag that was intercepted in international waters. The eight crew members of the vessel were from Syria, and were arrested by Spanish customs officers.

Earlier this week, High Court Judge Fernando Andreu had to let another eight suspected drug traffickers free. The Egyptian crew of a fishing vessel, which was flying no flag, had been caught in March carrying nearly 10 tons of hashish.

The Popular Party (PP) government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has come in for harsh criticism from human rights groups, the opposition and legal experts for restricting the use of the universal justice doctrine after officials were pressured by other countries with relation to ongoing High Court investigations. Specifically, the Chinese government lodged formal complaints against Madrid after arrest warrants were issued in February for former President Jiang Zemin, ex-Premier Li Peng and three other top Chinese officials for alleged rights abuses in Tibet during the 1980s and 1990s. A criminal rights abuse case was filed by Tibetan activists at the High Court.

The loophole in the new law, which only received votes from PP deputies in Congress, limits judges’ ability to investigate and send to trial boat crews caught carrying drugs.

“A judge must use the law, whether he likes it or not, even when the result, from his point of view, is frustrating,” Judge Gómez Bermúdez wrote in the same writ.

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