Thousands rally for Spanish judge Garzon

Protesters in support of High Court judge Baltasar Garzon say charges against him are an assault on judicial independence.

Thousands rally for Spanish judge Garzon

Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets across Spain on Saturday to protest against immunity for Civil War crimes and charges against a prominent judge for investigating deaths under General Francisco Franco's 1939-1975 dictatorship.

Protesters in support of High Court judge Baltasar Garzon say charges against him are an assault on judicial independence.

He is accused by far-right parties of abusing his judicial powers by attempting to launch the first comprehensive investigation into Spain's 1936-1939 Civil War.

Garzon came to the world's attention in 1998 when he issued an international arrest warrant for former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet for the alleged deaths and torture of Spanish citizens.

Demonstrations were staged in 20 Spanish cities on Saturday, as well as at Spanish embassies in London, Dublin, Brussels, Lisbon, Paris, Mexico and Buenos Aires.

Crowds in central Madrid included human rights activists, actors, intellectuals and members of victims' families.

"There's still a big open wound in our democracy that needs to be healed," actor Antonio de la Torre, one of the event's organisers told Reuters by telephone.

A falangist demonstration a few blocks away drew a crowd of about 300 carrying a banner reading "Proud of our History".

Garzon appeals

Garzon filed an appeal against the charges on Friday, claiming partiality by the Supreme Court justice in charge of the case, Luciano Varela, for allegedly helping the far-right groups with their accusations against him.

Garzon, who also investigated abuses under Latin American military governments and at the U.S. detention centre at Guantanamo Bay, is facing three separate Supreme Court inquiries that could end his judicial career.

He faces 10 years in prison and a ban as a judge if found guilty of abusing his powers in the Civil War investigation.

Human rights activists around the world have praised him for pioneering the principle of universal jurisdiction, according to which perpetrators of crimes such as genocide can be tried anywhere if the courts of their own country fail to prosecute.


Reuters

Last Mod: 25 Nisan 2010, 16:58
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