Spain judge to face trial for illegal jailhouse wiretap order News
Spain judge to face trial for illegal jailhouse wiretap order
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[JURIST] The Spanish Supreme Court [official website, in Spanish] announced Friday that Judge Baltasar Garzon [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] will stand trial on November 29 for ordering illegal wiretaps in jailhouses. Garzon was indicted [text, PDF, in Spanish; JURIST report] in April 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 [AP report] into a network of businesses that allegedly gave money and gifts to members of Spain’s Popular Party in exchange for government contracts. He believed that the visiting lawyers may have been acting as liaisons between inmates and others involved in the criminal network. The court found, however, that Garzon continued to record the privileged conversations even after he learned that the majority of them discussed defense strategies. The November 29 trial will be the first of two for Garzon, who in 2010 was charged [order, PDF, in Spanish; JURIST report] with abuse of power and suspended from his position. No date has been set for a trial on this charge.

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. In that case, Garzon is charged with politically motivated corruption in his investigation of crimes committed under the Franco dictatorship [BBC backgrounder], in 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.