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Home News Spain’s dictator-hunting judge Garzon goes on trial

Spain’s dictator-hunting judge Garzon goes on trial

Published on 17/01/2012

A Spanish judge who gained international attention by pursuing former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet went on trial Tuesday, accused of abuse of power in an illegal wiretapping case.

Judge Baltasar Garzon appeared in the Supreme Court in Madrid in one of three cases which his defenders say are politically motivated bids to stop him prosecuting crimes dating from the dictatorship of Francisco Franco.

The presiding judge read out the charges in the trial, in which Garzon is alleged to have ordered illegal wiretaps in a corruption case involving the conservative Popular Party, which returned to power in Spain last month.

Garzon, 56, sat on the bench dressed in his own judge’s robes, next to his lawyer, and listened to the charges.

If convicted in the current trial, Garzon would not go to prison but could be suspended from the legal profession for 17 years.

In a second case opening January 24 he is charged with exceeding his powers by ordering an investigation into the disappearance of tens of thousands of people during Spain’s 1936-39 civil war and Franco’s subsequent right-wing dictatorship.

And in a third trial, for which the date has not yet been set, the judge is accused of taking bribes over payments he allegedly received for seminars in New York.

Arriving at court on Tuesday, Garzon smiled as he was applauded by a small crowd of supporters who were held back behind a police line.

“They are covering up their crimes by going after Garzon,” read one of the signs held by protestors.

Garzon’s supporters argue the cases brought against him are a politically motivated attempt to stop the judge from going ahead with a probe into abuses during Franco’s regime, still a divisive subject more than 35 years after the dictator’s death.

Among the protestors outside the court was Gaspar Llamazares, a prominent member of parliament for the left-leaning IU party.

“We are faced with an act that shames Spanish democracy, justice and the Supreme Court itself — judging an innocent person for trying to judge Francoism and also for trying to fight corruption,” Llamazares said.

“I think the damage is done and the sentence is predetermined.”

“I don’t know the law, but I can see there is an injustice,” said another protestor, Angel Fernandez, 68.

“I can see there is absolute corruption and that they are not judging those who should be judged.”