Appeals Court Judge Eduardo Freiler was removed from his post today morning, after being found guilty of corruption and inability to justify the large increase of his assets during his tenure.
The decision was made by the body in charge of judging national judges, which depends from the Council of Magistrates. “Freiler doesn’t honor the position to which he was appointed,” said a representative of the jury that determined his fate, which was comprised of seven members. “It has been proven that Freiler lied in his tax returns,” he added. Freiler was not present in the room to hear the verdict.
Freiler was suspended from his post two months ago. Had he not been impeached, he would have gone back to performing his duties in the City of Buenos Aires’ first Court of Appeals, one of the most important seats in the judiciary.
The jury also argued the accusations proved that Freiler didn’t have the values that society demanded from a judge, such as dignity and honesty. It also concluded that his performance as a judge was sub par.
But behind the formal accusations laid another reason, perhaps most important than the others, for which all members of the jury except for Victory Front (FpV) Deputy Diana Conti voted in favor of his impeachment: his perceived partiality in favor of Kirchnerism by certain political camps.
In certain cases, Freiler has ruled in ways his detractors argue respond to his close ties with the Kirchner camp. Chief among them was his refusal to investigate Nisman’s accusation, who had argued that the former President, along with other high-ranking officials, had contributed to cover up Iran’s role in the 1994 AMIA Jewish Center bombing in exchange for trade deals. The Cassation Court, the highest criminal court in the country, ultimately overturned Freiler’s court decision and determined that the accusation be investigated.
Cambiemos’ representatives consider him partial and corrupt, and have tried repeatedly to have him removed throughout the year. However, instead of making a direct accusation, they have resorted to a strategy akin to the one the IRS in the US put in place in order to put Al Capone behind bars: they went after his assets.
The way in which the government’s representatives in the Council of Magistrates also generated controversy with their Kirchnerite counterparts, as Cambiemos only managed to get away with it by seizing a brief window of opportunity when the FpV’s members were not all present in the Council. Should this had been the case, they would have been able to block the initiative, as they had been throughout the year.
The key event that allowed government representatives to achieve their goal didn’t actually happen yesterday, but the day before, when the judiciary confirmed a decision to remove FpV Senator Ruperto Godoy from the Council because he was occupying a seat that was destined to a lawyer, even though he wasn’t one.
The FpV caucus rushed to appoint Senator Mario Pais as his replacement, aware this could happen. But they weren’t fast enough. While Pais waited to be sworn in by the Supreme Court, the Cambiemos caucus held an impromptu session and, since it needed eight votes instead of nine to approve the initiative, it quickly reached its goal.
The session was highly controversial, with the members of the Kirchnerite caucus accusing their counterparts of operating within a legal loophole in order to reach their objective, and the Supreme Court of aiding them to do so.
Council member Rodolfo Tailhade argued that Supreme Court President Ricardo Lorenzetti purportedly took a long time to swear him in to allow the government to hold the session: Pais got to the Court’s offices at 9 AM, but Lorenzetti told him the members first had to attend a hearing about another subject, and met with him only three hours later. Two months later, he was impeached.
According to Clarín, the government now intends to spearhead the removal of three other federal judges who they consider hinder investigations of alleged corruption, in what they claim is an initiative to get the Judiciary to be really independent, unlike now.