A long-simmering extradition fight between the US and Spanish Judge Santiago Pedraz has been heating up recently—and may complicate US attempts to get its hands on European nationals accused of high-profile financial crimes including the JP Morgan traders in the middle of the "London whale" scandal.
It started back in the spring of 2003, one day before images of US soldiers tearing down the statue of Saddam Hussein in Firdos Square would be broadcast around the world. A US tank positioned on the Tigris River turned its sights on Baghdad's Palestine Hotel, where scores of journalists—some embedded, mostly unembedded—were staying. The tank fired, wounding a few journalists and killing two: Reuters cameraman Taras Protsyuk and Spanish cameraman José Couso of Telecinco, who had been filming the tank that morning and, according to another journalist, had exchanged greetings with US soldiers across the river.
(For an eyewitness account of what happened at the Palestine Hotel, see this interview with Amy Goodman and Spanish journalist Olga Rodriguez, who was wounded in the attack.)
Since then, Judge Pedraz has been trying to extradite the three soldiers responsible to stand trial in Spain.
The US has not complied (unsurprisingly) and, in diplomatic cables published in 2010 by Wikileaks, diplomats told their bosses back in the US (including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice) that "behind the scenes we have fought tooth and nail to make the charges disappear" and that the Spanish government “has been helpful behind the scenes in getting the case appealed.” (That detail infuriated Couso's family. "It seems we are citizens, or at least a small province, of the empire of the United States," his brother Javier said.)
It seemed like a decade-old stalemate, but Judge Pedraz's criticism of the US government—and his criticism of the Spanish government's reluctance to pressure the US government to live up to its end of bilateral extradition treaties—has been getting louder and is being echoed in the press and by some politicians.
Now, adding to the drama, US prosecutors want Spain to hand over former JP Morgan trader Javier Martin-Artajo to stand trial for securities fraud involving $6.2 billion.
And who's sitting in the middle of that extradition case? Judge Santiago Pedraz.
Things could get interesting.