Spain high court convicts judge Garzon in wire-tapping case

[JURIST] The Spanish Supreme Court [official website, in Spanish] on Thursday convicted [press release, in Spanish] Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzon [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] of ordering illegal wiretaps in jailhouses, after a trial lasting less than one month [JURIST report]. The court 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. 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. The court suspended Garzon from practicing law for 11 years.

A second private prosecution against Garzon related to abuse of power charges [JURIST report] began in January and is ongoing. In that case, Garzon is charged with politically motivated corruption in his 2008 investigation of crimes committed under the Franco dictatorship in violation of the 1977 Amnesty Law, which affords amnesty for Franco-era crimes. During the investigation, Garzon ordered [JURIST report] 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. In March, Garzon filed a petition [JURIST report] with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website], challenging the 2010 charges of abuse of power. 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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