Indiana Daily Student

Protestors defend judge

They’re suing the judge.

Spain’s central criminal court, the Audiencia Nacional, began hearings in the case against justice Baltasar Garzón Real yesterday. Right-wing groups, led by Manos Limpias (“clean hands”), had filed suits against the judge after he tried to open inquiries against crimes committed by Francisco Franco and members of the Falange party during and after the Spanish Civil War. The crimes included executions, mass graves, forced labor and sudden disappearances.

Garzón’s attempted inquiries, the groups argue, overstepped his judicial bounds. A 1977 amnesty law exonerated those involved in crimes committed on both sides before, during and after the war. The goal, brought to fruition in the constitution of 1978, was to make sure that both sides of the political spectrum would support the new democracy.

Numerous forces inside and outside the country have supported Garzón’s actions. An editorial in the New York Times calls the suit against him “a politically driven case that should have been thrown out of court,” while supporters in-country include film director Pedro Almodóvar and both the Socialist Workers’ Party and the conservative Popular Party. Demonstrators are holding assemblies and rallies in the School of Labor Relations at the Universidad Complutense in Madrid every day until May 22, when the Audiencia Nacional will release its decision.

Garzón has made similar attempts in the past. In 1998, he issued a warrant for the extradition to Spain of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, who had reportedly tortured Spaniards along with Chileans. The warrant was eventually denied due to Pinochet’s poor health, but it marked the first time that the principle of universal jurisdiction had been used in such a way. This Spanish judicial principle holds that some crimes are so grave that the world effectively has jurisdiction, not just the place or country the crime was committed.

Garzón has also been active in the crackdown on Eta, a Basque separatist group, and is reported to have been on the group’s list of assassination targets.

In 2003, he compiled a 692-page indictment which called for the arrest of 35 men (later increased to 41), including Osama Bin Laden, for their alleged membership in a terrorist group.

In Europe’s biggest trial of alleged al-Qaida members, 24 were put on trial in 2005 and 18 found guilty of belonging to an al-Qaida cell and sentenced to long prison terms.

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