A regular Samizdata reader (who for fairly obvious reasons has asked to remain anonymous) submits this slightly horrifying story of what has recently happened to a friend resident in Spain. People familiar with the Spanish justice system – this is not a country where you wish to get in trouble with the law – will not find it surprising. Still, it is different, somehow, when it happens to you or someone close to you.
Occasionally one hears a story of a government overreach which makes one think that something like it could not happen in a Western Democracy, at least not on a regular basis. And if it does, it surely is due to some kind of a mistake, to which bureaucracies are so prone, or due to some corrupted government officials acting illegally. That was what I thought, after a friend who suddenly disappeared, severing all contacts with friends (although thankfully not family), reappeared after having spent four months in a Spanish jail. When this middle-aged suburban mother of young children told me that she got lucky, seeing as a maximum term for a pre-trial detention according to the Spanish law is four years, I thought that she must have misunderstood something “lawyery” – turns out, she did not (more info in Spanish here). What is worse, according to that document Spain is by no means different from several other European countries, and is not the worst among them, either.
As of now, my friend is still less than keen on discussing the legal aspects of the matter, and she has never been much interested in these things anyway. But, to paraphrase that dead revolutionary: you may not be interested in Law, but Law is interested in you. After having her apartment turned upside down and having been dragged to jail following a knock on the door, she was brought before a judge, whom she told that she just happened to have been once-friends with someone connected to something much bigger than herself or anyone she has ever known.
It took the Spanish authorities four months to corroborate her statement. In the meantime, she spent those four months in appalling conditions, with only a weekly through-the-glass visit from her husband, plus a monthly conjugal visit. No heating (in winter), filthy cells, two women sharing a cell with a toilet. Her kids still think she was away for some kind of professional training. It would have taken longer (as noted above, up to four years) if it was not for her lawyer. She made friends in jail with women who cannot afford a lawyer, and others who were extradited to Spain under the European Arrest Warrant and do not even know anyone in Spain. They are still in jail. Word is (I have not checked) that all the “Big Fish” with that big affair apparently are home free after about a month and a half in jail. The State is NOT your friend.
Perry has occasionally suggested the possibility of introducing a new category named “No shit, Sherlock”, principally for quoting people who have, apparently after a long struggle, managed to figure out the blindingly obvious.
I think it might apply here too. In Cyprus, between the opposing armies of Turkey and Greek Cyprus, there is a buffer zone, monitored by the United Nations. This buffer zone is not as empty or as off limits as many other such zones in other parts of the world, but like many such zones it has become an involuntary nature reserve, full of wildlife.
There are also a small number of occupied towns in the zone. One of these is Pyla, which has the distinction of being the only town on the island of Cyprus in which citizens of Greek and Turkish ethnicity live side by side. This town contains both active mosques and active churches, pubs that serve Efes and different pubs that serve KEO. (Why is beer such a sectarian thing?) There is a significant UN presence in the town. Rather tiresomely, there are also lots of signs prohibiting photography of buildings occupied by the UN, but one still does one’s best. Surreptitious photography does not always lead to the best results, alas.
On the side of the local UN police station is the above sign, which explains that hunting is prohibited. Apparently it is a bad idea to run around a neutral zone between two hostile and opposing armies wearing camouflage and firing weapons. Who would have thought it?
I confess that I have mixed feelings about the necessity for such signs. Sometimes people should be allowed to collect their richly deserved Darwin awards, if they are determined enough.
This story in the Wall Street Journal, stating that Denmark is to rescind its “fat tax” because it has proven to be economically destructive, may not, in the scheme of things, be as important as the US elections, the plight of the euro or the (hopefully) end of tax-financed public service broadcasting in the UK (we can all dream). But the sight of a European government, one that often adopts a nanny state approach to certain issues, rowing back on such an idea, is encouraging.
One thing I should point out to my despondent American pals who are concerned about the US copying failed European social/regulatory models is this: it is possible to push back, if the evidence can be presented strongly enough and if the impact is clear enough and if this can be shown to voters.
A year ago today I posted Discussion Point XXXVI
What will happen to the Euro? I am not asking “what should happen”, but what will happen. Take this opportunity to put your predictions on the internet, and later be hailed as a true prophet or derided as a false one.
Come, take your bows, or your lumps, and predict anew. The fat lady has not yet sung.
You thought that no one could top awarding a Nobel peace prize to Barack Obama, a decision taken, if I recall correctly, eleven days into his presidency?
They topped it.
This is sublime. This is art.
European Union wins Nobel peace prize
“Perhaps the most annoying thing about Julian Assange (yes, I know it’s a long list) is that he is in danger of giving the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) a good name. Maybe my memory is failing, but I don’t recall any of his supporters being critical of the EU’s fast-track extradition system when it was being debated 10 years ago.”
Philip Johnston, in today’s Daily Telegraph. It is an interesting point to make. Leaving aside Assange for a minute (there’s no need to hurry), the power of extradition creates an interesting point for those concerned about liberty and the importance of due process of law. Some extradition agreements between states might be acceptable if, for example, an offence for which a person is to be extradited to country B from A is recognised as a criminal offence in both nations. However, with the EU Arrest Warrant, you can be extradited into a country from another where the offence in question is not recognised in the place where the person happens to be staying at a particular point in time.
As we have seen with recent controversy about the UK’s extradition agreement with the United States, a person can be moved to the US – and vice versa – without a prima facie establishment of guilt having to be shown in the country where the person is being transferred from. Given the plea-bargaining lottery that the US adopts in certain cases, for example, this seems to involve serious abuse of due process.
These points need to be aired because, amid all the other issues kicked up by the Assange affair (the alleged sex crimes, the activities of Wikileaks, potential damage to military forces in the field, etc) the specifics of extradition principles can be obscured. Unlike some more isolationist types, I don’t have a problem with treaties between states to shift suspected criminals around to see that justice is done, provided there is a reciprocal recognition of the rules of procedure. For instance, there is simply no way that a country such as the UK should have such an arrangement with a state enforcing shariah law, say, or with a country such as Russia, which is a police state, or for that matter, Ecuador.
“People who do otherwise commendable work are capable of rape and other crimes. If presented with rape allegations, they must face them like anybody else, however otherwise worthy their past contributions. Now, these statements should be so self-evidently obvious, it is ludicrous that they need to be said. But the furore over WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange sadly makes it necessary. Although now granted political asylum by Ecuador, Assange is a rape suspect who skipped bail. Yet some of his supporters have ended up making arguments that they would never dream of making about anybody else.”
– Owen Jones, writing in the Independent. He is, by the way, a big fan of Wikileaks. I am not so keen, as I have explained here before at Samizdata, such as when Wikileaks affected private bank details.
Here is also a good article on the impact of Wikileaks’ activity on investigative journalism, by Nick Cohen.
Update: George Galloway has, er, tried to defend Assange. With friends like Galloway, Assange doesn’t need enemies.
The Greek electorate is in denial. It rejects austerity, but insists on keeping the euro. All the main parties duly parroted what voters wanted to hear, making for a fantasy election, a make-believe election, a fingers-in-my-ears-I-can’t-hear-you election. The only list which was honest about the necessary cuts – a coalition of three liberal parties – failed to gain a single seat.
– Daniel Hannan
Who do you hope wins the election in Greece today?
As a starting point for discussion, I thought the headline of this Guardian article “A Syriza victory will mark the beginning of the end of Greece’s tragedy” might well turn out to be true if Syriza do win, albeit not in the way the left wing authors expect.
This is delicious about Professor Paul Krugman.
The president of Estonia chewed out Paul Krugman on Wednesday, using Twitter to call the Nobel Prize-winning economist “smug, overbearing & patronizing,” in response to a short post on Estonia’s economic recovery. Krugman’s 67-word entry, entitled “Estonian Rhapsody,” questioned the merits of using Estonia as a “poster child for austerity defenders.” He included a chart that, in his words, showed “significant but still incomplete recovery” after a deep economic slump.
This paragraph packs its own, statistically-deadly punch in the direction of the New York Times columnist:
Estonia, which in 2011 became the latest country to join the eurozone, has been heralded by some as an austerity success story. That year, it clocked a faster economic growth pace than any other country in the European Union, at 7.6 percent. Estonia is also the only EU member with a budget surplus, and had the lowest public debt in 2011 — 6 percent of GDP. Fitch affirmed its A+ credit rating last week.
Update: Dan Mitchell weighs in with some damning data of his own against Krugman.
I read this…
Leaders of the three biggest [Greek] parties met at the presidential mansion for a final attempt to bridge their differences, but the talks quickly hit an impasse as they traded accusations on a deeply unpopular bailout package tied to harsh spending cuts
Polls since the election show the balance of power tipping even further towards opponents of the bailout, who were divided among several small parties but now appear to be rallying behind Tsipras, a 37-year-old ex-Communist student leader
…and was then reminded of this by H.L Menchen which I have often quoted…
Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard
Greece is often credited as being the place where formal democracy was first practised in antiquity and so it seems fitting that it is Greece where the current social democratic order of regulatory statism enters its terminal state of Maenad frenzy, perhaps proving beyond all doubt that social democracy is unreformable via democratic means.
But do not kid yourself that the tragicomic indigent collective derangement on ever more florid display is something peculiar to the Hellenic world.
On December 1 last year a bag and a coat were stolen from my rental car in the city of Portimão in Portugal. The bag contained a few items of value, one of which was my Kindle. As I recounted at the time, a few days later (on December 10) a post was made to my Facebook account from my Kindle from a Portuguese fellow named Pedro, who told me that his father had found it in the middle of a road while walking his dog. At the time I made the post I had forwarded Pedro my address, and he had stated that he would post my Kindle to me. My assumption was that the criminals had thrown the Kindle out their car window due to the fact that a Kindle is tied to a particular Amazon account and this cannot be changed from the Kindle, and was thus useless to the criminal.
Upon my making that post, a couple of Samizdata commenters suggested that I was being overly trusting and mentioned the possibility of scams involving criminals who lure victims in various ways with the prospect of returned items and then rob them further. I was sceptical of this, as I had not given Pedro any information other than my address, which a criminal could have found out from documents that were in the car anyway and which isn’t exactly a secret anyway. (I am listed in the phone book, assuming phone books still exist). When one is on one’s guard it is usually easy to tell the difference between someone who is trying to scam you and someone who is genuine, which is why most scams work by targeting people at those moments when they are off their guard. Pedro did not feel like a scammer, so I was confident I would get my Kindle back. He felt more like some teenager or young man who upon being given the Kindle started playing with it and while figuring out how it worked found out how to make a Facebook update and did so.
However, I waited for the Kindle to be returned. Nothing arrived. I was mildly disappointed by this, but compared to the unpleasantness of having my possessions stolen in the first place it wasn’t a big deal. As it happened, I remembered that when I first contacted him Pedro had asked if I were still in Portugal. (I wasn’t). Perhaps his attempting to contact me had been an attempt by criminals to get me to meet with them so that they could steal from me some more. Or something.
As of the 2nd of February this year, no Kindle. My assumption was that I wasn’t getting it back, but I thought I would just give it one more try. I sent another e-mail to Pedro, just asking him whether he had sent it. I got the following reply.
The lady from the post office and made a “mistake” and didn´t sent it for me!! Because she donne something rong.
And i had tried to send it by registraded mail and it was taking to long??? so i have been to the post office and checked!!
I did know it since monday and i was supose to deliver it to some inglish frinds of mine that i have brougth to faro airport today and they were landing in London and i have forgothen it at home!
Monday morning i will try to send it to you!!
Sorry about that!
Now, I wasn’t going to take this as a literal statement of fact any more than I would a statement that the Kindle had been eaten by his father’s aforementioned dog along with his homework (a better guess was simply that he had not got around to sending it), but as there was still a reasonable chance that I might actually be getting it back, I thanked him once more. Another e-mail was forthcoming.
You can call if you whant!!
00351 967 xxx xxxx
This was slightly peculiar, and I wasn’t actually going to call him (what would I say?) but things had reached the stage of being more amusing than anything else. It didn’t feel like I was in contact with criminal mastermind Professor Pedro Moriarty, but I really had no idea what was going on. On Tuesday February 7, more e-mail
I have a friend that whent to London today and he will post it for you today so you will get it tomorow or the day after.
Nothing arrived on the 8th, 9th, 10th, or the 11th, so at that point I mentally shrugged and gave up on it.
However, early on the morning of Monday February 13th, I heard the encouraging thump of a package coming through my legendary mailslot. It was a padded post bag, sent recorded delivery from Brighton on the 11th. It did indeed contain my Kindle. The saga was over. I posted a status update of delight to my Facebook account.
Except, it wasn’t. → Continue reading: My faith in humanity is back somewhere in the middle, although I do have my Kindle back