Spain's embattled judge probed over wiretaps

20th October 2010, Comments 0 comments

Spain's crusading judge Baltasar Garzon was placed under judicial investigation Wednesday for having allegedly ordered illegal wiretaps during a probe into corruption involving the main opposition party.

The case is one of three against the judge, best known for his attempt to extradite former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet from Britain for human rights abuses in 1998.

Three suspects in a corruption probe that has shaken Spain's opposition party since last year have accused him of illegally ordering telephone wiretaps with their lawyers.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday said the judge had been placed under formal investigation for "maladministration" over the case.

If convicted he would avoid prison but could be suspended for 12 to 20 years in that case, which would effectively end the career of the 54-year-old.

In May, Garzon was suspended from his job pending trial for abuse of power after he opened a probe into the disappearance of tens of thousands of people during Spain's 1936-39 civil war and General Francisco Franco's subsequent right-wing dictatorship.

He later accepted a temporary post at the International Criminal Court in the Hague.

The case follows a complaint by far-right groups who claim the probe violates an amnesty law passed in 1977, two years after Franco's death, for crimes committed under the general's rule.

Garzon had argued that the Franco-era disappearances constituted crimes against humanity and were therefore not covered by the amnesty.

The third case against him involves suspected bribery over payments he allegedly received for seminars in New York.

© 2010 AFP

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