Garzon suspended over Franco war probe

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The Independent Online

The Spanish judge who became an international hero for going after Augusto Pinochet and Osama bin Laden was suspended yesterday after allegedly abusing his authority by investigating the atrocities committed during and after the country's Civil War.

The punishment could effectively end Baltasar Garzon's career. The decision by a judicial oversight board, the General Council of the Judiciary, was made during an emergency meeting about Mr Garzon, said its spokeswoman, Gabriela Bravo. Supporters cheered as Mr Garzon emerged from the National Court. He hugged co-workers and appeared close to tears as he got into a bulletproof limousine and drove away.

The 54-year-old has been removed from his post pending his trial. He faces charges of knowingly going beyond the limits of his jurisdiction in 2008 by investigating the execution or disappearance of more than 100,000 civilians at the hands of supporters of General Francisco Franco, or in the early years of the Franco dictatorship. Until Mr Garzon acted, there had been no official probe of such atrocities, which were covered by an amnesty granted by parliament in 1977, two years after Franco died, as the country moved toward reconciliation. Spain's Socialist government said Mr Garzon is innocent until proven guilty. "The process is not over," said Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega.