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Spain judicial panel suspends judge Garzon over Franco probe

The Spanish General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ) [official website, in Spanish] voted unanimously Friday to suspend National Court judge Baltasar Garzon [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] for abusing his power by opening an investigation into war crimes allegedly committed under Francisco Franco [BBC backgrounder] during the Spanish Civil War [LOC backgrounder]. The CGPJ, ruling 18-0 with three abstentions, was required to hand down the suspension once Garzon's final appeal to avoid trial was rejected [El Pais reports, in Spanish] on Wednesday.

No trial date [AFP report] has been set. If convicted, Garzon could face a suspension of up to 20 years. Garzon is also facing charges of bribery over money he received for seminars conducted in the US.

Thousands gathered [JURIST report] in cities across Spain last month in support of Garzon, chanting slogans and displaying flags of the pre-war Republican government ousted by Franco. In March, the Spanish Supreme Court [official website, in Spanish] charged [order, PDF; in Spanish] Garzon with abuse of power based on Garzon's 2008 ordered exhumation [JURIST report] of 19 mass graves in Spain. The purpose of the order was to assemble a definitive national registry of Civil War victims, despite a 1977 law granting amnesty for political crimes committed under Franco. Garzon appealed [JURIST report] the charges in April, alleging that the indictment issued by Spanish Supreme Court judge Luciano Varela was politically motivated [AFP report], compromised judicial independence, and sought to impose a specific interpretation of the 1977 law. Garzon is widely known for using universal jurisdiction extensively in the past to bring several high-profile rights cases, including those against Osama bin Laden and former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet [JURIST news archives].

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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