Spain high court indicts judge Garzon for jailhouse wiretap order

[JURIST] The Spanish Supreme Court [official website, in Spanish] on Monday issued an indictment [text, PDF, in Spanish] against National Court judge Baltasar Garzon [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] for his order to place illegal wiretaps in jailhouses for the purpose of recording conversations between inmates and their lawyers. Garzon's order was a part of his investigation [AP report] into a network of businesses alleged to have given money and other gifts to members of Spain's Popular Party, in exchange for contracts in regions under the party's governance. This investigation, now known as "el caso GUrtel" [El Pais report, in Spanish], was commenced by Garzon in 2009, with the wiretap order issued in February of that year. He based his order to wiretap the jailhouse on his belief that it would yield incriminating evidence as the lawyers may be acting as liaisons with others suspected of involvement in this network. However, the court found that Garzon extended the amount of time the jailhouse was wiretapped even after he discovered that the majority of the initial conversations overheard dealt mostly with defense strategies.

Monday's indictment by the Spanish Supreme Court is the second for Garzon. Last month, he filed a petition [JURIST report] with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website], challenging a case brought against him in Spain that alleges abuse of power in investigating crimes committed under the Franco dictatorship [BBC backgrounder]. In that case, Garzon faces charges of politically motivated corruption [JURIST report] and violation of the 1977 Amnesty Law, which affords amnesty for Franco-era crimes. The charges are based on Garzon's 2008 order [JURIST report] for certain government agencies, the Episcopal Conference, the University of Granada and the mayors of four cities to produce the names of people buried in mass graves, as well as the circumstances and dates of their burial. His petition follows the September 2010 decision of the Criminal Chamber of the Spanish Supreme Court, which unanimously confirmed [JURIST report] a lower court order that Garzon abused his power and must face trial. Garzon is widely known for using universal jurisdiction [AI backgrounder; JURIST news archive] extensively in the past to bring several high-profile rights cases, including those against Osama bin Laden and former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.

 

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