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Peter Lemkin
02-09-2012, 04:21 PM
Revenge for his progressive legal work. Welcome to Planet Fascism!

Spain rights judge Garzon convicted for wiretaps

By Anna Cuenca (AFP) – 4 hours ago

MADRID — Spain's Supreme Court convicted judge Baltasar Garzon on Thursday in an illegal wiretapping case, crushing the judicial career of a man who won world renown for pursuing human rights abuses.

The decision halts the rise of a judge who has taken on dictators, Basque militants and even Al-Qaeda, but who stumbled when he tangled with a corruption probe targeting senior politicians.

Garzon, 56, who earned international fame for trying to extradite Chile's former dictator Augusto Pinochet in 1998, was found guilty of ordering illegal recordings of corruption suspects talking to their lawyers.

"We condemn the accused, Baltasar Garzon, as the author of the crime of abusing his authority... to 11 years' suspension from his duty as judge or magistrate," the court's ruling read.

The suspension effectively ends Garzon's career as a judge. It can be appealed at Spain's Constitutional Court.

Garzon's lawyer Francisco Baena Bocanegra said after the judgment that he would fight the case further, without giving details of any possible appeal.

"We will continue fighting in defence of the innocence that has been denied to us today... before the appropriate authorities," Bocanegra said on Spanish television.

The complex corruption case that Garzon probed has implicated senior members of the conservative Popular Party, which returned to government in December.

Ordinary Spaniards expressed suspicion over cases against Garzon and the conviction.

"He is the best judge Spain has had," said Emilio Garrido, 87, a passer-by in a Madrid street, after Thursday's ruling.

"Now he has opposed the government that we have... this is what he gets."

"It seems to me like the world is back-to-front," with a judge being judged, said another, Begona Antonio, 55.

"The judicial system is bad in Spain. There are the remains of Francoism. It is a shame and makes me very sad."

Garzon is also awaiting judgment in a second trial for trying to investigate atrocities of the Franco era, in an alleged breach of an amnesty. He argues the acts were crimes against humanity and not subject to an amnesty.

Garzon's defenders say both trials are politically motivated bids to stop him prosecuting crimes committed during Spain's 1936-1939 Civil War and the subsequent dictatorship of General Francisco Franco.

"The circumstances in which this conviction has been made cannot avoid being seen internationally as a punishment for Judge Garzon for investigating the crimes of the Francoists," said Pedro Nikken, president of the International Commission of Jurists, who observed the second trial.

In the case judged Thursday Garzon said the wiretaps were legal since the lawyers themselves were implicated in the case and he wanted to prevent alleged money-laundering continuing while the suspects were in jail.

In a strongly-worded decision, the judges said the recordings of the suspects' conversations that he ordered were "practices which these days only take place in totalitarian regimes".

Garzon could receive a further 20-year suspension if convicted in the second trial which wrapped up on Wednesday, for which no judgment date has been set.

The ex-judge joined the National Court in 1988 and quickly took on sensitive cases that made headlines.

He waged a 22-year judicial fight against the Basque separatist group ETA and probed the GAL death squads in Spain's Basque region under the Socialist government of Felipe Gonzalez in the 1980s, which targeted ETA suspects.

He also pursued members of the former dictatorship in Argentina and issued an indictment against Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden in 2003.

Peter Lemkin
02-10-2012, 07:03 PM
Spain’s most famous judge, Baltasar Garzón, has been disbarred for 11 years after being found guilty of ordering illegal monitoring. Garzón is known for taking on global human rights cases under the doctrine of universal jurisdiction, with actions including ordering the arrest of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in 1998, indicting Osama bin Laden for the 9/11 attacks, and probing the abuse of U.S. prisoners at Guantánamo Bay. Garzón cannot appeal his disbarment, which effectively ends his career as a judge. We speak to Human Rights Watch’s Reed Brody, who observed Garzón’s trial in Madrid. Brody says the case marks "a massive attack on the independence of the judiciary and on a very brave judge." [includes rush transcript]

JUAN GONZALEZ: Spain’s most famous judge, Baltasar Garzón, known for ordering the arrest of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, was himself found guilty yesterday of authorizing illegal recordings between clients and their lawyers in a corruption case involving the Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s People’s Party. Spain’s Supreme Court has banned Garzón from the legal profession for 11 years, effectively ending his career as a judge. The court also said he could not appeal the ruling.

Some Madrid residents expressed disappointment at the outcome of the case.

PATRICIA: [translated] I think Garzón has done the best he can, and what he did, I think, is right. He didn’t do anything wrong. And whether he did or he didn’t, he is the only one to have ever done something for this country. So I think the decision is incorrect.

AMY GOODMAN: In addition to ordering Pinochet’s arrest, Judge Garzón used the doctrine of universal jurisdiction to investigate war crimes and torture across national lines, famously indicting Osama bin Laden and others of al-Qaeda in 2003, and opening an investigation into the potential criminal liability of Bush administration officials for acts of torture at Guantánamo.

Garzón still has two other cases pending against him, including allegedly exceeding his authority by investigating atrocities committed by supporters of the dictator Francisco Franco. The human rights crimes came during Franco’s reign from ’36 to 1975. More than 100,000 opponents of the regime were executed or disappeared. While prosecutors reportedly disagreed with the charges that Garzón had exceeded his authority, Spanish law allows civilians to lodge criminal charges.

Well, to talk more about the ruling against Judge Garzón, we’re joined by Reed Brody, counsel and spokesperson for Human Rights Watch in Brussels. He was observing Garzón’s trial in Madrid, is now with us in New York.

Can you just tell us what happened?

REED BRODY: Sure. Well, as you said, there were three cases against Garzón. I mean, this was a concerted effort by his enemies within the conservative Spanish judiciary essentially to get rid of him. And the first case, accusing him of failing to apply Spain’s amnesty law, got such a bad reaction internationally, but other cases were leapfrogged in front of that.

And in this case, he ordered that the alleged ringleaders of a massive corruption scandal—over 120 million euros, $180 million, involving payoffs within the now-ruling Popular Party—he ordered that the defendants be wiretapped, because, allegedly, the lawyers, who were in conversation with them, were laundering the money. And in fact, one of the lawyers was actually indicted for money laundering. He ordered the wiretaps on the recommendation of a prosecutor. When the case was moved to another jurisdiction, the new prosecutor recommended the wiretaps, and the new judge continued the wiretaps. And despite the fact that one of the lawyers was in fact indicted for laundering the proceeds of this scandal, the wiretaps were quashed. That’s OK. What then happened, though, is that he was actually prosecuted by the defendants. And the conservative judiciary accepted the case, and he has now been convicted of having abused his authority by ordering these wiretaps.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, I mean, it almost seems that as long as he was willing to deal with cases internationally, that it was OK by the Spanish judiciary. But as soon as he began to look at the Franco regime, the atrocities of the Franco regime, or begin to zero in on possible corruption within his own government, suddenly they went out to get him.

REED BRODY: Well, he has made a lot of enemies, particularly in the Popular Party. But also, let’s not forget that he had—his actions resulted in the indictment of a Socialist Interior Ministry for supporting death squads in the Basque country. So he had made enemies on both sides of the spectrum. And this was really a concerted effort to cut him down to size, which—a massive attack on the independence of the judiciary and on a very brave judge.

AMY GOODMAN: So what can’t he do right now? And we have less than a minute.

REED BRODY: Well, he can’t serve as a judge in Spain. And this is really—for him, that’s not—it’s not he who will suffer. It’s Spain. It’s all of those of us who look to the Spanish judiciary to take on the tough cases, to investigate Guantánamo, the Salvadoran and Argentinian and Chilean victims who went to the Spanish judiciary because there was a judge there willing to apply the law. And now that judge is being—

AMY GOODMAN: Bush administration officials being investigated for torture at Guantánamo?

REED BRODY: As well. He was the one who opened the investigation into Guantánamo. That investigation remains open, but the fact that the judge who opened the investigation is now being cast aside is a warning that Spain will tolerate only subservient judges.

AMY GOODMAN: We’ll leave it there. Reed Brody, we thank you very much for being with us, counsel and spokesperson for Human Rights Watch in Brussels, has been observing the trial of Judge Baltasar Garzón in Spain. Judge Baltasar Garzón has been convicted.