Spain's crusading Judge Garzon disbarred for 11 years

Reuters News
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Posted: Feb 09, 2012 9:39 AM
Spain's crusading Judge Garzon disbarred for 11 years

MADRID (Reuters) - Spain's Supreme Court disbarred Judge Baltasar Garzon for 11 years on Thursday for illegally tapping defense lawyers' conversations, which may effectively end his career of international human rights trials.

Although less severe than a 20-year-ban the prosecution had originally demanded, the ruling is not subject to appeal. Garzon, 56, is also liable to a fine of some 2,500 euros($3,300).

"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," Garzon's lawyer Javier Baena said after the sentence.

Garzon is also on trial in two more cases, one for allegedly abusing his authority by ordering an inquiry into the murder and forced disappearance of more than 100,000 people by forces loyal to late dictator Francisco Franco.

In this case, Garzon -- who wore his official robes while sat in the dock -- is charged with violating a 1977 amnesty law, although the judge maintains he acted at the request of victims and their families and international law backs him.

In a third trial, Garzon faces charges he dropped an investigation into the head of Spain's biggest bank, Santander, after receiving payments for a course sponsored by the bank in New York.

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.

Garzon 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. ($1 = 0.7545 euros)

(Reporting by Iciar Reinlein; Writing by Martin Roberts; Editing by Sophie Hares)