Spanish judge who fights corruption lands in court

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The Independent Online

A Spanish judge lauded for his work chasing international suspects for alleged crimes against humanity was himself indicted again this week for ordering wiretaps of conversations between jailed suspects and their lawyers.

The decision by the Supreme Court is another setback for Judge Baltasar Garzon, renowned for cross-border justice cases against one-time Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet and Osama bin Laden.

Under Spain's universal justice doctrine, grave crimes alleged to have been committed in other countries can be prosecuted under certain conditions, such as when the country where a crime allegedly took place is not investigating. A new condition laid down recently is that there should be a link to Spain.

Last year Baltasar was suspended from his post at the National Court on charges of violating his jurisdiction for a 2008 investigation into the execution or disappearance of more than 100,000 civilians at the hands of supporters of General Franco.

The alleged crimes – during the 1936-39 Spanish Civil War, or early years of Franco – were covered by an amnesty declared in 1977, but Garzon investigated anyway.

Recently Garzon has been probing a network of businesses that allegedly paid money and gifts to members of Spain's conservative opposition Popular Party in exchange for lucrative contracts in towns and regions governed by that party.

In 2009 he ordered illegal wiretaps of conversations in which three suspects behind glass partitions in prison spoke by phone with their lawyers. Garzon argued he thought the lawyers might be acting as liaisons with other people in the alleged corruption ring.

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