His “ambition and pursuit of the spotlight may be without rival.”
That’s a quote from a U.S. Embassy cable from Madrid to Washington about the controversial Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon. Citing the doctrine of “universal jurisdiction” Garzon has pursued both Osama bin Laden and Bush Administration officials.
But now Garzon finds himself on the wrong side of the gavel.
This week the Spanish Supreme Court ruled him guilty of running an illegal wiretap on government officials. The decision suspended Garzon from the bench for eleven years even though prosecutors said his infraction was common practice in Spain and asked for the case to be dropped.
Garzon won renown during a thirty-year career as an “examining magistrate,” investigating cases of his own choosing before giving his evidence to the prosecution for trial. In 1987, Garzon helped convict the Spanish interior minister for hiring death-squads to murder Basque separatists. In 1998, he ordered the arrest Chile’s ex-dictator Augustin Pinochet in London.
Garzon’s suspension launched fierce debate between the right and left in Spain. You can read a round up of local media coverage here. Many think his conviction was politically motivated. Garzon has made powerful enemies, including the ruling Popular Party (the PP’s city governments in Madrid and Valencia were the targets of Garzon’s wiretaps). He also stirred up controversy by investigating Franco-era atrocities, and a brief term as a Socialist MP in the 1990s called his neutrality into question.
Garzon may never judge again. But in January, another Spanish judge agreed to reopen his investigation of “the Bush Six” on torture policy charges. The Obama administration quashed the first one. Do you think they should do it again?