News24

Spain's superjudge misused authority

2012-02-09 17:52

Madrid - The Spanish judge celebrated for pursuing international human rights cases was convicted of overstepping his jurisdiction in a domestic corruption probe on Thursday - the culmination of a spectacular fall from grace of one of Spain's most prominent people.

A seven-judge panel of the Supreme Court unanimously convicted Baltasar Garzon, 56, and barred him from the bench for 11 years.

Garzon had enjoyed rock star status among human rights groups but 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 - knowingly overstepping the bounds of his jurisdiction - for launching a probe in 2008 of right-wing 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.

Garzon has been suspended from his job at the National Court since 2010 when when he was indicted in the civil war case.

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

Such wire taps are expressly allowed in terrorism cases, but Spanish law is more vague on non-terror cases.

Garzon 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.