Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon cleared in Franco-era crime probe


Spaniards sign a giant banner displaying a picture of renowned judge Baltasar Garzon at the Puerta del Sol square in Madrid on February 9, 2012.



Spain’s Supreme Court has cleared high-profile judge Baltasar Garzon of breaching the terms of a 1977 amnesty law by investigating atrocities committed during the Franco era.

Six members of the seven-panel bench voted to acquit Garzon, 56, on Monday, according to a judicial official in Madrid, the Agence France Presse reported.

Garzon was cleared on the basis that his investigations into the disappearance of 113,000 people during Spain’s civil war and the dictatorship of General Francisco Franco were defensible in legal terms, according to the BBC.

Lawyers for two right-wing groups, Clean Hands and Liberty and Identity, had accused the judge of overstepping his powers.

Garzon, best known outside Spain for securing the 1998 arrest in London of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, had argued that crimes against humanity should not be subject to a 1977 amnesty law voted through parliament.

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Monday’s ruling effectively opens the door to a fresh probe being launched into Franco-era crimes, The Daily Telegraph reports.

However, it will not be headed by Garzon, who was convicted earlier this month of illegally authorizing the recording of lawyer-client conversations by police in a separate corruption case, and banned from the legal profession for 11 years.

Garzon has vowed to fight that conviction. He also faces a third trial centered on allegations that he abused his judicial authority in a financial corruption case and took bribes.

All three cases have been labelled a political witch-hunt by Garzon’s supporters, and brought thousands of Spaniards onto the streets in a show of solidarity for the magistrate.

Garzon’s detractors, on the other hand, view him as politically-motivated and hungry for publicity.

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