Spanish judge says he should be acquitted

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Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon, suspended for alleged abuse of power linked to a probe of Franco-era crimes, is seeking to be acquitted, a judicial source said Friday.

In a written defence put foward by his lawyer, he requested that he be acquitted citing a legal precedent that prevents a trial taking place if it is opposed by the public prosecutor's office, as is the case, the source said.

Garzon was suspended in May from the bench at the National Court for abuse of power after he opened a probe 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 who claim the probe violates an amnesty law passed in 1977, two years after Franco's death, for crimes committed under the general's rule.

The prosecutor's office of the Supreme Court, however, opposes the trial and has argued that in its absence the civil plantiffs involved are not in a position to mount a prosecution on their own.

Garzon had argued that the Franco-era disappearances constituted crimes against humanity and were therefore not covered by the amnesty.

The 54-year-old judge faces trial for abuse of power, probably late this year according to the judicial source, and if convicted could be suspended for up to 20 years, effectively ending his domestic career.

He rose to international prominence in 1998 when he tried to extradite former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet for human rights abuses.

© 2010 AFP

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