De la BBC:
Spanish judge faces Supreme Court
Spain's most famous judge has testified in the Supreme Court over claims that he overreached his judicial powers.
In October 2008 Baltasar Garzon launched a controversial inquiry into atrocities committed during the four-decade rule of Gen Francisco Franco.
The court is hearing a complaint by a right-wing group that the judge knowingly exceeded his official remit.
In the past, the judge's indictments have targeted the likes of Augusto Pinochet and Osama Bin Laden.
Mr Garzon was met by a small crowd of supporters as he arrived at the Madrid courtroom, among them veterans of the civil war.
Gervasio Puerta, 88, who spent eight years in prison after fighting against Franco, told the AP news agency: "It is an injustice to try a person who wants to defend those of us who suffered under Franco."
In a blaze of publicity last October, Mr Garzon pledged to investigate what he called "crimes against humanity" committed during the Franco era.
He ordered several mass graves to be reopened to investigate the disappearance of more than 100,000 people during and after the 1936-39 Spanish Civil War.
But the inquiry was shelved following opposition from state prosecutors and his fellow judges.
Right-wing group Manos Limpias, or Clean Hands, alleges that he was not entitled to ask government departments to hand over papers from the Franco period.
The group's president, Miguel Bernad, said the hearing showed all were equal before the law.
"It is the first step for the processing of the superstar Baltasar Garzon who believed himself above the law," he said.
"I believe that the victory is for all the Spanish society."
The Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory, which seeks to identify those who disappeared in the Franco era, said the case was "grossly unjust".
"It is incomprehensible that an attempt to seek justice for victims of rights violations as serious as those committed by the Franco dictatorship can be considered a crime," AP quoted the group as saying.
"For victims of Franco, it is a humiliation to see that the judge who tried to find thousands of (the) disappeared in mass graves could be convicted for it."
Mr Garzon strongly denies that he broke the law, and has the backing of the International Commission of Jurists, which says his short-lived inquiry did not justify disciplinary action, let alone criminal prosecution
Roisin Pillay, a senior legal adviser for ICJ, said the prosecution of judges for carrying out their professional work was "an inappropriate and unwarranted interference with the independence of the judicial process".
The BBC's Steve Kingstone in Madrid says it would be a major surprise if this crusading judge was to be charged with a crime.
But his very appearance in court offers yet more evidence of how a dark past, seven decades old, continues to divide the Spain of today, our correspondent says.
Story from BBC NEWS
De: The New York Times
(por medio de AP - Associated Press)
Nota: este artículo se refiere a "Manos Limpias" como una "organización conservadora." Para mí, esto no expresa bien la naturaleza de este sindicato ultra-derechista.
September 9, 2009
Spain's Top Judge in Court in Jurisdiction Dispute
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Filed at 12:11 p.m. ET
MADRID (AP) -- The Spanish judge best known for indicting Augusto Pinochet and Osama bin Laden appeared in court Wednesday with the tables turned: this time he was a suspect, accused of overstepping his authority in a huge domestic case involving Spanish civil war atrocities.
Baltasar Garzon made no comment to reporters as he arrived at the Supreme Court in a very rare case of a Spanish judge being formally probed in legal proceedings. A handful of supporters cheered Garzon as he went in a side entrance for a closed-door session.
The magistrate left the court nearly four hours later but again declined to speak to the press. The court will now decide whether to continue with the probe.
In May, the Supreme Court agreed to investigate a complaint from an ultraconservative group that accuses Garzon of knowingly acting without jurisdiction in ordering a probe of executions and other abuses of civilians by forces loyal to Gen. Francisco Franco during the 1936-39 civil war and in the early years of the Franco government.
Garzon's drive last year -- Spain's first official probe of such crimes -- was widely seen as seeking an indictment of the Franco regime itself. But he eventually bowed out in a dispute over jurisdiction.
Garzon, an investigating magistrate at the National Court, denies any wrongdoing. It is not known when the Supreme Court might decide whether to charge him.
''It is an injustice to try a person who wants to defend those of us who suffered under Franco,'' said Gervasio Puerta, 88, who fought against Franco in the war and ended up spending eight years in jail. He was among those standing outside the court Wednesday in a show of support for Garzon.
Garzon is the most prominent symbol of Spain's doctrine of universal jurisdiction, which holds that heinous crimes like torture or terrorism can be tried in this country even if they are alleged to have been committed elsewhere and had no link to Spain.
He used it in 1998 to go after Pinochet, having the ex-despot arrested during a visit to London, although Britain ultimately refused to extradite him to Madrid for trial. Garzon indicted bin Laden in 2003 over the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks in the U.S.
More recently, other judges at Garzon's court have used the principle to pursue current or former officials in Israel over an air force bombing in Gaza in 2002 that targeted and killed a Hamas leader but also killed 14 civilians; in the United States over treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay; in China over alleged abuses in Tibet, and other cases.
Amid growing complaints abroad that Spain was acting like a global cop, particularly from Israel and China, Parliament scaled back the doctrine in June. Now, Spanish judges will be able to pursue universal justice cases only if the crimes involve Spanish victims or the alleged perpetrators are in Spain.
In August of last year Garzon turned his sights on a dark chapter of Spain's own past. He launched an investigation into the disappearance or execution of tens of thousands of civilians during the war at the hands of Franco's supporters.
Garzon argued that Franco and his cohorts engaged in a crime against humanity by waging a systematic campaign to eliminate opponents. The judge ordered the unearthing of dozens of mass graves believed to hold remains of victims of pro-Franco militia.
Prosecutors objected to the investigation, arguing such crimes were covered by an amnesty passed in 1977 -- two years after Franco died -- as Spain moved to restore democracy and focus on rebuilding the ruined nation rather than on reopening old wounds. Garzon ultimately bowed out and transferred the case to provincial-level courts.
But the conservative group Manos Limpias, which calls itself a labor union representing civil servants and is the plaintiff in the current case, argued to the Supreme Court that even before dropping the case Garzon knowingly overstepped his bounds by ordering government agencies to provide him with information on wartime missing and ordering graves dug up, even though cases of forced disappearance do not fall under the jurisdiction of his court.
''Garzon has no business getting involved in something where he has no jurisdiction,'' the group's leader Miguel Bernard said outside the courthouse on Wednesday.