Spain's crusading judge denies wrongdoing over wiretaps

10th May 2010, Comments 0 comments

Spain's high-profile judge Baltasar Garzon on Monday denied any wrongdoing in ordering wiretaps in a probe into a corruption scandal involving members of the main opposition party, lawyers said.

The case is one of three involving Garzon currently being examined by the Supreme Court and over which he risks being suspended from his post.

Speaking before Supreme Court Judge Alberto Jorge Barreiro, he denied accusations of "malfeasance" for having ordered the wiretaps as part of a probe into corruption by members of the conservative opposition Popular Party and a group of businessmen, lawyers for the complainants said.

Three of the suspects in the scandal accuse him of ordering the wiretaps of their conversations with their lawyers in violation of their rights.

In another case, a Supreme Court judge last month indicted Garzon for alleged abuse of power for opening an investigation in 2008 into the disappearance of tens of thousands of people during the 1936-39 civil war and General Francisco Franco's subsequent right-wing dictatorship.

The judge argued that the probe ignored an amnesty law agreed by political parties in the spirit of national reconciliation in 1977, two years after Franco's death, for crimes committed under the general's rule.

Garzon has argued that the disappearances constituted crimes against humanity and were therefore not covered by the amnesty.

He has appealed the Supreme Court's indictment, which has been condemned by human rights groups such as Amnesty International.

The 54-year-old judge has also been questioned over accusations of bribery and perverting the course of justice in connection with his shelving of a tax fraud case against the head of Spain's Santander bank, Emilio Botin, and other directors.

He has also denied any wrongdoing in that case.

Garzon made world headlines in October 1998 when he ordered the arrest of Chile's former strongman Augusto Pinochet in London under Spain's principle of "universal jurisdiction."

He also indicted Osama bin Laden in 2003 for the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States and looked into the deaths of Spaniards in Argentina during the military regime of 1976-83.

© 2010 AFP

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