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Pardon under suspicion

The Spanish government must offer an explanation on the release of a pedophile in Morocco

The incarceration in a Spanish jail on Tuesday of Daniel Galván, the Spanish pedophile mistakenly pardoned by the king of Morocco, has calmed the outrage generated in Morocco by his release, but is far from being the end of an episode which has aroused public indignation, and which calls for explanations by the Spanish government.

The release is more or less discreditable to everyone involved. The person most affected, no doubt, has been Mohammed VI himself. A gesture of goodwill — the pardon granted to 48 Spanish prisoners on the occasion of the Feast of the Throne, after king Juan Carlos’ visit to Morocco — has blown up into one of the worst crises of his reign. To release a man sentenced to 30 years in prison for abusing at least 11 children, in a land so sensitive to the issue of pedophilia and sex tourism, placed the Alaouite monarch in an unsustainable situation in the eyes of the Moroccan public. In rectifying and admitting that he was never duly informed “of the gravity of the atrocious crimes” committed by Galván, Mohammed VI has shown the vulnerability of his position. The mistake undermines his image of infallibility, though at least one head has rolled — that of the director of the Moroccan penitentiary administration.

Spain, contrary to what the Moroccan authorities at first suggested, did not demand the release of all the 48 prisoners, but only of 18, to which it added a request for the transfer of 30 others to prisons in Spain. Galván was among the latter group. But the fact that Morocco mixed the two lists by mistake must not serve the Spanish government as an excuse for sweeping the details under the rug. The Foreign Ministry failed to tell the truth in the first hours of the controversy, when it said the Moroccan authorities had prepared the lists of prisoners, which were in fact presented by the Spanish embassy. These maneuvers ended by casting an unfavorable light on the Spanish Royal Household itself, when a spokesman declared that Don Juan Carlos had interceded on behalf of a prisoner who was ill.

There still remain many questions to be answered. It is true that Galván requested his transfer to a Spanish prison, and that for this reason he was on the list. But why did the Spanish authorities fail to inform Morocco of the error of the pardon and, far from it, rapidly facilitated the documents that would have allowed him to walk free on Spanish soil, had the affair not come to light? Did his inclusion on the list follow automatically upon his own request for the transfer, or did it have to do with circumstances of some other nature? Is it defensible to prepare lists of this sort without approval from the judiciary?

Only clear answers can dilute the suspicions, suggested by the Moroccan press, that Galván, originally from Iraq, received favorable treatment because he was protected by the Spanish secret services, in spite of the gravity of his crimes. Fortunately, the prevailing good relations between Spain and Morocco have allowed for a smooth handling of the crisis, and hopefully will also facilitate a solution to the legal snarl that has been created.

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