Spain high court acquits judge Garzon in abuse of power case

[JURIST] The Spanish Supreme Court [official website, in Spanish] in a 6-1 decision acquitted [judgment, in Spanish] Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzon [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] Monday of abuse of power charges [JURIST report]. Garzon was charged with abusing power by ordering the exhumation [JURIST report] of 19 mass graves in Spain in order to assemble a definitive national registry of Civil War victims, despite a 1977 law that provides amnesty for Franco-era crimes. Garzon testified in the trial [JURIST report] last month, denying that his investigation was politically motivated, stating that he was seeking justice for the victims of the alleged crimes, and rejecting the idea that the 1977 amnesty law covered widespread human rights abuses. His remarks were consistent with his previous statements defending [JURIST report] the validity of the investigation by insisting that he acted within the bounds of the law and appropriately applied the law at all times. Garzon would have faced up to a 20-year suspension from the bench if he had been convicted, as well as fines.

Garzon was also charged in two other recent corruption cases. Earlier this month, the Spanish Supreme Court convicted Garzon of ordering illegal wiretaps in jailhouses, after a trial lasting less than one month [JURIST reports]. The court had announced in October that Garzon would stand trial on the charges after the he was indicted in April [JURIST reports] for ordering the placement of wiretaps in jailhouses to record conversations between inmates and their lawyers. Garzon gave the order as part of an investigation into a network of businesses that allegedly gave money and gifts to members of Spain's Popular Party in exchange for government contracts. The court suspended him from practicing law for 11 years. Two weeks ago, the court dismissed [AFP report] the other case against Garzon, involving bribery charges over money he received for seminars conducted in the US. 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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