Spain clears the way for judge Garzon trial

12th May 2010, Comments 0 comments

Spain's Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered the trial to go ahead of crusading judge Baltasar Garzon, who is accused of abuse of power by starting an investigation into Franco-era crimes.

The order by the Supreme Court's judge Luciano Varela marks the final procedural stage before the trial can start. A judicial source told AFP that no date has yet been fixed.

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.

The temporary ICC post would allow Garzon to avoid any formal suspension over the prosecutions against him, and some have interpreted his request as an attempt to avoid this humiliation.

The board that oversees cases involving judges and magistrates will meet on May 18 to decide whether to grant Garzon leave of absence, a judicial source said. It will meet the following day to rule on his eventual suspension.

Garzon was indicted last month on charges of exceeding his authority by opening an investigation in 2008 into crimes committed by General Francisco Franco's regime in Spain that were covered by an amnesty.

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

Last month, thousands rallied in 28 Spanish cities to protest against the prosecution of the judge with one rights group warning that it would undermine EU efforts to combat human rights abuses.

Gaspar Llamazares of Spain's United Left party denounced what he called a "manhunt" that aimed "to demolish a judge".

However, conservative politician Alfonso Alonso accused Garzon of "escaping and taking refuge at The Hague."

Garzon is also involved in two other investigations, 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.

© 2010 AFP

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