The Spanish Supreme Court has acquitted a Spanish human rights judge on charges of abusing his power, The New York Times reports.
Baltasar Garzón had been investigating abuses during the Spanish Civil War and by dictator Francisco Franco.
The Supreme Court ruled 6-to-1 in Garzón’s favor. The same court, however, on Feb. 9 unanimously convicted him of illegally ordering a wiretap, suspending him for 11 years.
Garzón was tried under a 1977 Spanish law granting amnesty to people connected with abuses during the Franco regime and the Spanish Civil War, which ranges from the start of the war to Franco’s death in 1975.
Garzón had also previously attempted to try former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in Spain on charges of human rights abuses, as well as issuing an indictment for Osama bin Laden in 2003 for the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Reed Brody, a lawyer for Human Rights Watch, told the Times that the law should be repealed and though Garzón had been acquitted of this charge, “the damage had already been done” with his previous conviction, which will essentially end his career.
“Garzón will not return as a judge, but he is not the real loser,” he said. “The real losers are the reputation of the Spanish judiciary and those — in Spain, in detention at Guantánamo or in countries around the world where there is no justice — who knew they could count on at least one independent judge to apply human rights laws without fear of the political consequences,” Brody said.
Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón disagreed. He said that “there was a strong and independent judiciary.”
“None of the criticism against the Supreme Court, in my view unjustified, has made it lose its prestige in the eyes of Spanish citizens,” he said.
The Supreme Court also threw out another charge against Garzón of improperly accepting financing to teach a course at New York University while on leave, saying that the statute of limitations had passed.
Edited by Rich Steeves