LONDON, UK – Spain’s Supreme Court has rejected a request to throw out a case against Judge Baltasar Garzon, clearing the way for private prosecutors who accuse Garzon of overstepping his authority to press ahead with charges against him.
The country’s most famous judge, known for pioneering cross-border justice cases, is testifying in his own trial for overstepping his jurisdiction by ordering an inquiry into mass killings committed by forces loyal to Spain’s former dictator General Franco.
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Garzon sat behind a small table in the Spanish Supreme Court’s ornate main chamber on Tuesday to deliver his testimony in front of a seven-judge panel, the Associated Press reported.
A majority of the judges ruled that the arguments advanced by both state prosecutors and Garzon’s defense team for dropping the case – which included alleged partiality by the judge who indicted Garzon in 2010 – lacked “sufficient material weight,” according to the BBC.
Spanish law allows for private prosecutions, and lawyers for two groups, Clean Hands and Liberty and Identity, are pressing charges against Garzon, best known outside the country for securing the 1998 arrest in London of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.
Both groups accuse Garzon of violating a 1977 amnesty. Garzon has argued that no amnesty can cover crimes against humanity, but critics say he is reopening old war wounds.
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Thousands of people held demonstrations in Madrid in support of Garzon on Sunday. Around 20 supporters applauded him as he walked into the Supreme Court building this morning, CNN reported.
Garzon faces two other court cases on charges of abusing his judicial authority in a financial corruption case and illegally authorizing the recording of lawyer-client conversations by police.
He was suspended from his post in 2010 pending these trials, and if convicted could be suspended from the legal profession for up to 20 years, effectively ending his legal career.