Embattled Spanish judge Garzon suspended ahead of trial

14th May 2010, Comments 0 comments

Spain's crusading judge Baltasar Garzon was suspended from his post Friday ahead of his trial on charges of abuse of power linked to a probe of Franco-era crimes, judicial sources said.

They said the body that oversees the judiciary, the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ), decided unanimously to suspend Garzon, two days after the Supreme Court cleared the way for his trial.

Garzon is accused of abuse of power for opening an investigation into the disappearance of tens of thousands of people during Spain's 1936-39 civil war and General Francisco Franco's subsequent right-wing dictatorship.

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

Garzon dropped the probe within months of launching it after state prosecutors and conservative politicians questioned his jurisdiction.

He had appealed the Supreme Court's indictment, which has been condemned by human rights groups such as Amnesty International.

The judge has argued that the disappearances constituted crimes against humanity and were therefore not covered by the amnesty.

Last month, thousands rallied in 28 Spanish cities to protest Garzon's prosecution with one rights group warning that it would undermine EU efforts to combat human rights abuses.

On Tuesday Garzon, 54, asked Spanish authorities to be allowed to work as a consultant for the International Criminal Court, following an offer from The Hague-based court.

He 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 main opposition party and another over suspected bribery.

Garzon was thrust into the international limelight in 1998 with his attempt to extradite former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet from Britain.

He also indicted Osama bin Laden in 2003 for the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States and looked into the deaths of Spaniards in Argentina during the military regime of 1976-83.

© 2010 AFP

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