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October 1, 2014
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A hot potato in courts

Unión Ferroviaria leader José Pedraza is seen in a file photo.

14 judges excused from probing case

After having been stuck in limbo for three and a half years, the bribery case against Unión Ferroviaria railway workers’ union leader José Pedraza was transferred to controversial judge Norberto Oyarbide, a sign that magistrates were continuing to play hot potato in a case that no one seems to want to take on.

Since the investigation began, a total of 14 judges and 10 courts have excused themselves from taking on the investigation due to their alleged connections with those judicial authorities implicated.

The criminal court transferred the case to Oyarbide just before the beginning of the judicial recess. The case involves an alleged attempted bribe made to certain judges, in an attempt to make them rule in favour of Pedraza and other union representatives in the 2010 killing of Workers’ Party (PO) activist Mariano Ferreyra.

The resolution, published by the criminal court last week, said judges had decided to move the case to the federal courts after having spent three and a half years in so-called “general jurisdiction.” There have been several excuses used by the more than a dozen judges who had the case pass through their hands in the past, using claims of friendship, affection, neighbours, or some type of connection to the plaintiffs. The result of this is that the judicial bribery case will be in the hands of Oyarbide — a judge who also has been himself accused of taking bribes several times in the past.

On the surface, the debate over which court is competent to receive the case is a technical matter. But when one examines the issue in depth, it could seem more like a way to let the case keep on passing from one jurisdiction to another to impede any effective measures from being taken.

In 2011, Prosecutor Sandro Abraldes indicated after analyzing hundreds of hours of tapped telephone conversations, that it would be necessary to investigate the alleged participation of Judges Eduardo Riggi, Gustavo Mitchell (who resigned from his post) and Mariano González Palazzo in a manoeuvre that would have benefited Pedraza and his people, daily Página/12 reported.

Criminal court sources believe that now the judges could be subject to criminal proceedings, but the case’s current prosecutor, Horacio Azzolín, strongly disagrees.

“It’s been more than two years, and the situation hasn’t changed a bit. What we lack is the evidence-gathering measures we requested, that nobody wanted to order,” he said.

In 2013, the Mariano Ferrerya homicide case was resolved, leading to the convictions of the Unión Fe-rroviaria leader, two of the union’s fellow members and federal policemen.

— Herald staff

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