Spain's embattled judge replaced by media-shy colleague

24th June 2010, Comments 0 comments

Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon, suspended for alleged abuse of power linked to a probe of Franco-era crimes, has been replaced by a much younger colleague known to be media shy, judicial sources said.

The body that oversees the judiciary in Spain, the CGPJ, unanimously chose Pablo Ruz Gutierrez, 34, to replace Garzon on the National Court bench, where he will inherit a number of sensitive cases.

Gutierrez will stand in while three judicial cases against Garzon are resolved.

No date has been set for the trial of Garzon, 54, which could take place after the summer, the sources said.

He is accused of 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 ensuing right-wing dictatorship.

The case follows a complaint by far-right groups that the probe ignored an amnesty law passed in 1977, two years after Franco's death, for crimes committed under the general's rule.

If convicted he would avoid prison but could be suspended for up to 20 years, which would effectively end his career.

Gutierrez, a member of a left-wing judges organisation, has already served as a temporary replacement on the bench of the National Court, which handles cases involving terrorism, crimes against humanity and organised crime.

He has a reputation for avoiding the media, while Garzon is well known for embracing it and inciting both criticism and jealousy among his colleagues.

Since he was suspended, Garzon has been hired as an adviser for the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Garzon is also involved in two other cases, one regarding wiretaps he ordered as part of a probe into a corruption scandal involving members of the conservative opposition party and another for suspected bribery over payments he allegedly received for seminars in New York.

© 2010 AFP

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