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Home News Spanish court quashes corruption case against Garzon

Spanish court quashes corruption case against Garzon

Published on 13/02/2012

Spain's Supreme Court on Monday quashed a bribe-taking case against rights judge Baltasar Garzon, who has already been barred from the judiciary for 11 years.

The court ruled that a three-year statute of limitations had passed in the case against the judge, who won global renown by trying to extradite Chile’s former dictator Augusto Pinochet from London in 1998.

Garzon was accused of soliciting sponsorship payments for lectures he gave in New York from five institutions, four of which had been probed in his own courtroom or other courtrooms in the National Court.

Five Spanish firms — Santander, BBVA, Telefonica, CEPSA and Endesa — gave a total 1.24 million euros ($1.6 million) to sponsor courses Garzon taught at New York University in 2005 and 2006, the court said.

All the firms except for Endesa had been the subject of investigations in the National Court, it said.

The Supreme Court found there was evidence of a crime but ruled the statute of limitations had passed because the last payment was received on May 17, 2006, more than three years before he was charged.

“Opening a hearing is not pertinent. It is agreed that the facts charged against Baltasar Garzon Real are shelved because of the statute of limitations,” the ruling said.

Garzon’s accusers had called for him to face five years’ prison and 30 days’ suspension from professional duties.

The judgement landed just four days after Garzon, 56, was criminally convicted for ordering wiretaps in a corruption probe, a decision criticised by his supporters as a political stitch-up.

Garzon argued that the wiretaps were legal since he wanted to prevent alleged money-laundering continuing while the suspects were in jail. The corruption scandal implicated senior members of the conservative Popular Party, which returned to government in December.

As a penalty, the Supreme Court suspended Garzon from the judiciary for 11 years, effectively ending his career.

“The Popular Party respects the decisions made by courts and judges in this case, exactly as it does in the previous case,” the secretary-general of the party, Maria Dolores de Cospedal, told a news conference.

Garzon is still awaiting a verdict in a more prominent trial in which he is accused of abuse of power for trying to investigate Franco-era atrocities in an alleged breach of an amnesty.

He argues that the acts, including thousands of forced disappearances during the Spanish Civil War and General Francisco Franco’s dictatorship, were crimes against humanity and not subject to an amnesty.

His defenders argue that all three cases are a form of revenge by the many enemies he has made.

Among his accomplishments as a National Court judge, Garzon waged a judicial fight against Basque separatist group ETA and probed the GAL death squads launched against ETA suspects under the Socialist government of the 1980s.

He also pursued members of the former dictatorship in Argentina, issued an indictment against Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in 2003 and investigated then Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi on tax charges.