Expatica news

Spanish court refuses to drop case against top judge

Spain’s Supreme Court refused Tuesday to dismiss a case against top judge Baltasar Garzon, accused of abuse of power in probing Franco-era crimes.

Both the prosecution and defence had asked the court to drop the case against Garzon, who won international fame with an attempt to extradite Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet from London.

But the court said their arguments were insufficient to justify shelving charges against the 56-year-old judge.

The submissions “do not have sufficient material weight to justify the cancellation of the investigation,” said the ruling agreed by a majority of the seven judges.

Garzon is scheduled to testify later in the day.

The judge is being prosecuted for ordering an investigation in 2008 into the disappearance of 114,000 people during Spain’s 1936-39 civil war and General Francisco Franco’s subsequent dictatorship.

Garzon argues that the acts were crimes against humanity and therefore not subject to an amnesty that had been agreed by Spain’s main political parties after Franco’s death.

If convicted he would not go to prison but could be suspended from the legal profession for up to 20 years, putting an end to his career.

The judge has become a hero to many human rights activists and victims of the Franco period.

Thousands of people marched across Spain on Sunday to show their support for him.

“Garzon, friend, the people are with you” and “We demand justice,” shouted supporters at a Madrid rally, some carrying black-and-white photos of relatives killed in the civil war or under Franco’s dictatorship.

Garzon came to international prominence in 1998 when he ordered the extradition of Pinochet from Britain to face charges of human rights abuses.

The judge has also pursued members of the former dictatorship in Argentina, indicted Osama bin Laden and probed abuses at the US prison for terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

Garzon was suspended from his duties at the National Court, Spain’s top criminal court, in May 2010 and currently works as a consultant at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.