Former Spanish super judge to be tried Nov 29

AP News
Posted: Oct 28, 2011 11:49 AM
Former Spanish super judge to be tried Nov 29

The Spanish judge once famous for going after people like Augusto Pinochet and Osama bin Laden will go on trial himself Nov. 29 for improper conduct in a corruption probe he was handling, the Supreme Court said Friday.

Baltasar Garzon, 56, is charged with ordering illegal wiretaps of conversations between jailed suspects and their lawyers in a 2009 investigation into 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 the party.

Garzon argued that he thought the lawyers might be acting as liaisons with other people in the alleged corruption ring, and he hoped to turn up incriminating evidence.

The trial is the first of two facing the judge. Garzon was indicted and suspended from his National Court post in 2010 for allegedly violating his jurisdiction in an investigation into the execution or disappearance of civilians at the hands of supporters of Gen. Francisco Franco. No date for that trial has been set yet.

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

If convicted in either trial, he could be barred from being a judge for many years.

Since being suspended, Garzon has taken up a consulting job at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. He is also helping monitor a process to disarm and demobilize Colombian paramilitary members.

In July, he was named a member of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment.

In 1998, Garzon had former Chilean leader Gen. Augusto Pinochet arrested in London and sought, ultimately in vain, to put him on trial in Madrid on charges of torture, terrorism and other offenses allegedly committed during his dictatorship.

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Five years later, Garzon used the doctrine to indict late Osama bin Laden for the Sept. 11 attacks.

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.

Garzon is also being probed for payments he received while teaching in New York in 2005 and 2006 during a sabbatical from his court job in Madrid.

(This version corrects spelling of judge's first name to Baltasar.)