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Doc. 5: Baltasar Garzón found guilty in wiretapping case

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“Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón found guilty in wiretapping case” (9 February 2012)


Human rights judge Garzón barred for 11 years after authorising illegal recordings of lawyers' conversations

The Spanish judge celebrated for pursuing international human rights cases was convicted of overstepping his jurisdiction in a domestic corruption investigation on Thursday, the culmination of a spectacular fall from grace.

A seven-judge panel of the Supreme Court unanimously convicted Baltasar Garzón and barred him from the bench for 11 years.

Although less severe than the 20-year-ban the prosecution had originally demanded, the ruling is not subject to appeal. Garzón, 56, is also liable to a fine of €2,500 (£2,095).

Javier Baena, Garzón's lawyer, said after the sentence: “We shall carry on fighting, carry on appealing. We have a long road ahead, but I believe both he and I are more than strong enough.”

Garzón enjoyed rock-star status among human rights groups but had made a lot of enemies at home, in particular among judicial colleagues uncomfortable with his celebrity.

He is still awaiting a verdict in a separate trial on the same charge of knowingly overstepping the bounds of his jurisdiction for launching an investigation in 2008 of rightwing atrocities during and after the Spanish civil war, even though the crimes were covered by an amnesty. That trial concluded on Wednesday but the verdict is expected to take weeks.

Garzón has been suspended from his job at the national court since 2010 when he was indicted in the civil war case.

Thursday's conviction relates to Garzón's decision in 2009 to order wiretaps of prison conversations between detainees and their lawyers. The detainees are accused of paying off politicians to obtain lucrative government contracts.

Such wiretaps are allowed in terrorism cases, but Spanish law is more vague on non-terror cases. Garzón argued during the trial that he had ordered the wiretaps because he thought the lawyers were being given instructions by the detainees to launder money.

The judged grabbed headlines around the world in 1998 by using international human rights law to order the arrest in London of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. Garzón was already well known in Spain for investigating Basque separatist group Eta. His probe into government death squads in the 1980s is credited with helping to bring down the Socialist government in 1996 elections.


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