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Spain judge Garzon appeals high court indictment

[JURIST] Spanish National Court judge Baltasar Garzon [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] on Saturday appealed [text, PDF, in Spanish] an indictment that charges [order, PDF, in Spanish; JURIST report] him with abuse of power for launching an investigation of alleged war crimes committed during the Spanish Civil War [LOC backgrounder]. Garzon alleges that the indictment issued by Spanish Supreme Court judge Luciano Varela is politically motivated [AFP report], compromises judicial independence and seeks to impose a specific interpretation of a 1977 law granting amnesty for political crimes committed under Francisco Franco [BBC backgrounder]. Garzon also complains of the short time he was given to appeal the indictment order, which resulted from Varela's summary motion to shorten the length of the trial. Garzon's indictment has sparked international outrage [NYT op-ed] and massive protests [La Jornada report, in Spanish] in Spain. Also on Saturday, the Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory [advocacy website, in Spanish], an organization for relatives of Franco Regime victims, announced [El Comercio report, in Spanish] that it intends to file a criminal complaint against Varela for violating international law in the application of the amnesty law. Members of the organization have said that, if necessary, they would pursue a suit against Varela in courts in Chile or Argentina through universal jurisdiction [AI backgrounder; JURIST news archive].

In 2008, Garzon ordered the exhumation [JURIST report] of 19 mass graves in Spain in order to assemble a definitive national registry of Civil War victims, despite the amnesty law. After ruling in February that Garzon may have exceeded his jurisdictional authority by launching the investigation, the Spanish Supreme Court ruled last month that he could be formally charged [JURIST reports]. Garzon has consistently defended [JURIST report] the validity of the investigation by insisting that he acted within the bounds of the law. Garzon is widely known for using universal jurisdiction extensively in the past to bring several high-profile cases, including those against Osama bin Laden and former Latin American dictator Augusto Pinochet [JURIST news archives].

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