Spanish judge Garzon says ready to face trial

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Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon says he is calm ahead of his possible suspension Friday for abuse of power linked to his controversial bid to investigate Franco-era crimes.

"Complicated situations are not handled with optimism, they are handled with calm, the calm of knowing that one is innocent," Garzon said in Madrid on the eve of a special meeting of the General Council of the Judicial Power during which the governing body of Spanish judges will decide whether to suspend him.

To applause, Garzon said it was important to defend the principle of universal justice for all victims of dictatorships.

On Wednesday, Spain's Supreme Court ordered a trial against the crusading judge to go ahead despite Garzon's request to be allowed to work as a consultant for the International Criminal Court, after an offer from The Hague-based court.

The ICC post, scheduled to last seven months, would allow Garzon to avoid any formal suspension over the charges against him, in what some observers have interpreted as an attempt to avoid such humiliation.

Garzon, 54, was indicted last month on charges of having exceeded 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.

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

Thousands rallied in 28 Spanish cities last month to protest anti-Garzon prosecution.

Garzon is also at the centre of 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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