Who is Spain's Judge Baltasar Garzón? Five key questions answered.

Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzón was found guilty today on charges of illegal wiretapping and abuse of power. As a result, Mr. Garzón will be disbarred for 11 years, and his sentence is not subject to an appeal. Two other cases are still pending against Garzón, who is known as a “super judge” because of the high profile human rights cases he has overseen internationally.  The charges against Garzón have divided Spain, and the conviction could mean the end of his legal career there.

Paul White/AP
Judge Baltasar Garzón, foreground, arrives for the last day of his trial at the Supreme Court in Madrid, Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2012. Banners held by supporters read 'Justice' and 'Spain back to front, Corrupt people and fascists put a judge on trial.'

1. Why is Garzón known as a 'super judge?'

Andrea Comas/Reuters/File
Spanish judge Balasar Garzón sits in the dock at the start of his trial at the Supreme Court in Madrid, last month.

Garzón is a leading international human rights lawyer, originally from the town of Torres in southern Spain. Garzón became the youngest judge in Spain’s national court at the age of 32, and over the course of 22 years he made a name for himself by championing universal jurisdiction, the idea that national courts can prosecute serious human rights violations committed anywhere in the world.

He helped set international human rights law precedent in 1998 when he had Chile’s Augusto Pinochet arrested while visiting England. Garzón ordered his extradition to Spain on charges of killing Spaniards in Chile and crimes of genocide during his authoritarian rule in Chile. Although Jack Straw, England’s home secretary at the time, stopped the extradition, the case is regarded as one of the most important human rights cases in history, the Guardian reports. 

Garzón was an investigative judge in Spain, similar to a district attorney in the US. At home, he has tackled state-sponsored terrorism, put Basque terrorists and corrupt politicians behind bars, and prosecuted drug barons, according to the Guardian. 

He was suspended from his post in the National Court in 2010 after charges were first brought against him, reports CNN.

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