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Spanish Judge Defends Investigation Into Civil War-Era Crimes


Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzon (L) and his lawyer Gonzalo Martinez Fresneda leave the Supreme Court in Madrid, January 31, 2012.

Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzon (L) and his lawyer Gonzalo Martinez Fresneda leave the Supreme Court in Madrid, January 31, 2012.

A high-profile Spanish judge known for trying to bring foreign dictators and terrorists to justice has defended his decision to open an investigation into crimes committed during the 1936-39 Spanish civil war.

Judge Baltasar Garzon is on trial on charges of abuse of power on the grounds that the alleged atrocities he was investigating were covered by a 1977 amnesty.

At the start of his trial Tuesday before the Spanish Supreme Court, Garzon argued that the amnesty referred to crimes of the political nature and not crimes against humanity.

He said that the killings and disappearances of some 114,000 civilians during the Spanish civil war and in the years right after that were systematic, adding that his probe was justified.

If convicted, he could be suspended from his duties for up to 20 years.

Earlier Tuesday, the court refused to dismiss the case, which was based on complaints from two right-wing groups.

Garzon is well known internationally for pursuing well-known foreign figures like former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. He also indicted Osama bin Laden for the September 11, 2001 terror attacks on the United States.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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