Wall Street Journal on February 10, 2012, reported that Spain’s Supreme Court found Judge Baltasar Garzón guilty of illegal wiretapping during a corruption probe, effectively ending his career. Excerpts below:

Spain’s highest court said that Mr. Garzón, 56 years old, will be suspended from the legal profession for 11 years, and will be stripped of his position as investigative judge at Spain’s Audiencia Nacional, a special court that handles the country’s most complex legal cases.

It came a day after Mr. Garzón’s trial in an unrelated Franco-era case ended, with a verdict expected within weeks.

The ruling on February 9 stemmed from Mr. Garzón’s 2009 decision to arrest several Spanish suspects in a corruption probe allegedly involving top politicians from the conservative Popular Party, which currently governs in Spain, though it was in the opposition at that time.

In the ruling, the Supreme Court said Mr. Garzón used conversations taped in prison between suspects and lawyers to provide the police with clues to advance the case. Spanish law permits taping only in terrorism cases and in much harder-to-justify instances of suspicion of evidence destruction. Mr. Garzón had argued the latter.

Mr. Garzón’s taste for the spotlight and habit of speaking out in favor of liberal causes, both uncommon traits within Spain’s judiciary, caused friction with colleagues.

For years, Mr. Garzón cultivated the image of a fearless truth-seeker always willing to take on hard cases.

But even some of his backers say he overreached in a few recent cases, including the 2009 taped conversations and his 2008 decision to seek prosecution of long-dead figures of the former regime of Spanish dictator Francisco Franco for human-rights abuses, the subject of the trial that ended on February 8.

Mr. Garzón could receive an additional sentence on top of Thursday’s sentence in that trial, known as the “Historical Memory” case.

In addition, Mr. Garzón faces a third trial unrelated to the prior two, whose start date isn’t yet set, over charges that he accepted money from banks that were under investigation in his court.

Mr. Miguel Bernard, who initiated the case, said that the ruling on the 9th was evidence of the independence of Spain’s judiciary, despite strong pressure from Spain’s left and from international media that has been generally sympathetic to Mr. Garzón.

“The international hero has been presented to the world as what he really is: a criminal,” Mr. Bernard said.



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