Trial against Garzón opens: if suspended, The Hague is out

May 12, 2010
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In a remarkably swift reaction to yesterday’s news that Investigate Magistrate Baltasar Garzón has requested permission for a seven-month stint as special advisor to the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in the Hague, this morning Justice Luciano Varela of the Spanish Supreme Court has opened the trial against Garzón for judicial prevarication, or knowingly overstepping his boundaries, a charge punishable with ten- to twenty-year suspension of duties, associated with his attempt to try as crimes against humanity the killing and disappearance of thousands of Spaniards during Franco’s dictatorship–crimes that Garzón argued were not covered by the country’s 1977 amnesty laws.

Varela’s decision to open the trial forces the Consejo General del Poder Judicial (CGPJ)–the body that also would have had to approve Garzón’s request to go the Hague–to consider suspending Garzón for the duration of the trial. Meanwhile, an appeal from Garzón to have his case dismissed–based on the charge that Varela provided undue and unprecedented assistance to the extreme right-wing plaintiffs when he gave them detailed editing instructions on their briefs–is still pending. The Supreme Court’s prosecutor’s office supports Garzón’s appeal. Should Garzón be suspended, then his transfer to The Hague is off the table. (His transfer would in effect have been a leave, and allowed him to retain his seat on the National Criminal Court or Audiencia Nacional.) The CGPJ is scheduled to meet and decide on both matters on May 18 and 19. See also this story by the AP.

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